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    Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    9.5 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    195 m
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    Directions to Trailhead
    Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

    The Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop is a fantastic walking route that will produce some lovely views of Northern Ireland and the surrounding sea. While out walking the trail, you will pass through the village of Church Bay and skirt around several charming loughs, as you make your way to the southern tip of the island at the Rue Point Lighthouse. Walkers should keep in mind that this trail is only accessible by ferry from Ballycastle and should plan their adventure accordingly.

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    Route Description for Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

    The Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop isn’t an overly challenging walk, although there is a bit of rugged coastal terrain that will make the route unsuitable for less mobile walkers. Be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes for this adventure. Also, walkers should make sure to keep dogs on a lead for the entirety of their time on Rathlin Island. Additionally, you will need to purchase a ferry ticket in order to reach the trailhead, the cost of which is £6 (£12 return) for adults and £3 (£6 return) for children.

    Even though it may be a bit of extra work to reach the trailhead, a walk on Rathlin Island is a wonderful experience that will produce some truly stunning coastal views. Featuring a fairly laid back trail and a sightline reaching out to both Northern Ireland and Scotland, this is an exceptional walk that should be entertained if you find yourself in the area.

    Setting out from the trailhead in Church Bay, you will make your way to the southeast and turn left in front of McCuaig’s Bar, which is an excellent place to grab a quick pint or a bite to eat before your walk. From here, you will turn right at the next intersection in the road and follow it south to leave the village behind.

    Continuing straight along the road for the next 4.0 km, you will enjoy beautifully scenic views across the Rathlin Island landscape that include the surrounding sea and the charming Craigmacagan, Kinkeel, Ally, and Ushet loughs. Eventually, you will arrive at the Rue Point Lighthouse that marks the southern tip of the island and offers some scenic views stretching out across the water towards Ballycastle.

    From here, you will make your way to the northwest along a footpath that will expose you to the rugged coastal cliffs that make up the western shore of the island. Take your time through this section and enjoy the stunning views across the water, before turning to the east to climb gently upon the hillside for 0.9 km on the return to the main road. Turning to the left here, you will follow along the road and retrace your steps back into Church Bay, where you can explore the village while waiting for the next ferry to take you away from Rathlin Island on the return to Ballycastle.

    Trail Highlights

    Rathlin Island

    Rathlin Island is a civil parish off the Northern Ireland coast that forms the northernmost point of the country. Featuring a population of 150 people, the island measures 6.4 km in width by 4.0 km in length and is formed into a reverse L-shape. Historically, Rathlin has been inhabited at least since the Mesolithic period and was likely known later on to the Romans as Reginia or Rhicina. The island was also the location of the first viking raid on Ireland in 795 CE.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How much does it cost to get to Rathlin Island?

    The ferry service to Rathlin Island costs £6 (£12 return) for adults and £3 (£6 return) for children.

    Can I bring my dog to Rathlin Island?

    Yes, dogs are permitted on Rathlin Island; however, they must be kept on a lead at all times.

    Insider Hints for Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

    • You will need to take the ferry over to Rathlin Island from Ballycastle in order to rewatch the trailhead.
    • Wear comfortable walking footwear for this adventure.
    • McCuaig’s Bar near the trailhead is a great place for some pre/post-walk food and drinks.

    Getting to the Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop Trailhead

    The trailhead for the Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop can be found near the Rathlin Ballycastle Ferry Slipway on the island.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


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    Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop Elevation Graph

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