As you drive along the North coast of Ireland you will see a long island out to sea. This is a real hidden gem in the true sense of the word. Well worth a visit on any Ireland tours or extended Belfast tours.
It is just 5 miles North of Ballycastle and 12 miles West of the Mull of Kintyre (in Scotland) and is Northern Irelands last remaining inhabited island.
There is a ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin.
Rathlin itself is never more than a mile wide and the population is concentrated around Church Bay.
A stroll around the island will reveal relics of far greater antiquity. Halfway to the West lighthouse is the site of a Stone Age axe factory , and to the north , earthworks known as Doonmore (great fort).
In the early Christian period , the island was a haven for monks , who have left evidence of their presence in the form of a sweathouse (primitive sauna) at Knockans near Church Bay.
In 795 AD Rathlin was the first place in Ireland to be raided by the Vikings.
It is also connected to Dunluce castle when the MacDonnells were slaughtered by the English on Rathlin.
Thre is also a large population of Puffins on the island which attract many visitors.
The Manor House hotel http://www.rathlinmanorhouse.co.uk/ is a great local hotel with good food , a great pub , and live music. Its worth spending a night there.
Rathlin Island is a place worth seeing on any tours of Ireland.