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Rathlin Island
(Reachlainn)
County Antrim

Rathlin Island from Samuel Lewis' Topographical Directory
 

Rathlin Island on the north east coast of County Antrim in the Provence of Ulster, owes its existence according to legend to the mother of Finn MacCool's (A legendary local giant) she was on her way to Scotland when she dropped it. The island is a 45 minute boat trip from Ballycastle it is L shaped and about six miles long. On the west side of the island a porcellanite factory has been discovered along with flint implements it is reckoned to be about 6000 years old.

On the east side of Rathlin Island near the lighthouse is the cave where the Scottish leader Robert Bruce hid after being defeated by the English at Perth in 1306. In this cave he observed a spider spinning its web this taught him the virtue of patience, he later returned to Scotland and was victorious at the Battle of Bannochburn. In 1315 his brother Edward came to Ireland with a large army, he ravaged the country for three years before being defeated at Fauhart near Dundalk Co Louth in 1318, the country was left in a state of utter desolation as a result of the Bruce campaign and a famine that had developed in Europe.

Rathlin Island was alleged to be the first place in Ireland to be raided by the Vikings in the 8th century, although Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin claims this also. Legend has it that the King of Norway Nabghoden sent a delegation to Ireland to find him a wife. On Rathlin they found Taisie Taobhgheal, daughter of Donn the King of Ireland who was already betrothed to Cobhghal. They tried to take her away by force as the wedding was underway and in the ensuing battle the Norwegian king was killed. Land on the mainland was given to the newly weds, who built a palace at Glentaise. (Taisie Glen) Giving one of Antrim's nine glens its name.

Sorley Boy MacDonnell captured Rathlin Island in 1551 and held it until 1575 when he lost it to the English under The Earl of Essex who massacred the islanders including Sorly Boy's family. Sorly Boy watched helpless from the mainland as the English ships landed on the island. The next inhabitants of Rathlin Island also met an unfortunate end when the Cambell's killed many of the islanders by throwing them to their deaths over the cliffs.

A Monastic site was established by St Comgall in the 6th century at church quarter near the harbour. An activity centre was opened on Rathlin Island in 1991 it was partly funded by Sir Richard Branston who was rescued by the island's lifeboat crew when his balloon crashed in the sea near the island.

Ballycastle Tourist Information Centre
Sheskburn House
7 Mary Street
Ballycastle
Co Antrim
Tel +44 (0)28
E Mail
Web Site

A ferry service opperates from Ballycastle on the Antrim Coast

Read about other Irish Islands.