Monday, 24 June 2013

Rathlin Island Visited Part 3

Before I leave the 'Stacks', Wesley, one of the group sent me this photo below and it shows what size the eggs are that I mentioned yesterday.  I think some of you thought they were bigger than they really are.

We spent about 21/2 hours at the ‘Stacks’, had our picnic there and then climbed the MANY steps up to meet Berti and the bus. Below is our last view of the bird colony. On our way back, we learned a bit more about the island and I thought I would share that with you.

Bertie told us Rathlin's most recent famous visitor was Richard Branson, whose hot-air balloon crashed into the sea off Rathlin in 1987 after its record-breaking cross Atlantic flight from Maine, USA. Richard Branson and Per Lindstrom were rescued from the sea a few miles northwest of Bull Point, Rathlin, where they were taken to safety.   Richard Branson later returned to Rathlin and presented the Rathlin Island Trust with £25,000 towards the renovation of the tithe barn at the Manor House, where they now have a medical centre.  

Fate may have played a part in Richard Branson's landing, Richard left Maine in America and came very close to landing on Rathlin.
All those years ago, the people of Rathlin left for America and most of them settled in and around Maine.  Perhaps Richard carried the spirits of those people back with him and they guided him on his journey.   It is up to you to decide if fate did play a part.

We asked Bertie to leave us off so we could see the seals in Church Bay.  There were about 30 seals both Grey and Common Seals.  Some of them were huge and some were young pups.  Most people have trouble to tell the difference.  

The Grey seal means "hooked-nosed sea pig" and are a large seal, with bulls reaching 2.5–3.3 m (8.2–11 ft) long and weighing 170–310 kg (370–680 lb); the cows are much smaller.  The Grey seal are distinguished from the Common seal by its straight head profile, nostrils set well apart, and fewer spots on its body. Bull Greys have larger noses and a less curved profile than common seal bulls.   Males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck.  Females are silver grey to brown with dark patches.  They live from 26 -38 years and when at sea, Grey seals hunt alone; it is only on land that they congregate like you see here on Rathlin.

Common Seal.  They are brown, tan, or grey, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 meters (6.1 ft) and a mass of 132 kilograms (290 lb). Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years).   Individual Common seals possess a unique pattern of spots, either dark on a light background or light on a dark. They vary in colour from brownish black to tan or grey; under parts are generally lighter. The body and flippers are short, heads are rounded. Nostrils appear distinctively V-shaped. As with other true seals, there is no pinna (ear flap)

We found a beautiful sunny sheltered spot to relax and were delighted to spend a few hours watching these wonderful creatures above.  

Near by, we heard this Wheatear singing and as we watched the seals basking in the sun, we also spied Eider with her chicks and a Heron fishing.

Finally we knew we had to head to our accommodation and leave this beautiful spot and on the way we saw the Kelp Store House.

The Kelp Store was once used to store the processed kelp (seaweed) before it was exported.  This large ruin dates from the 1700's.

The Island was bought by the Reverend John Gage from Lord Antrim in 1746 at a cost of £1,750. His family built a manor house that still stands on the island, along with the kelp house, a boat house and other structures.   As the owners of the island they were entitled to rent from the rest of the population.  

The gathering of Kelp was one of the ways that paid the rent, there were up to 150 kilns in operation at one time and this industry continued up to the 1930’s.  Seaweed was collected and put into stone kilns and burned until it turned into a "boiling mass". Kelp was used to produce soda and iodine.   

In its time the Kelp Store was also used as a school and as a venue for drama, music and dancing.  The ruin is now owned by the National Trust, as is the manor house which has been restored as a guest house although at present does not have a proprietor. 

Church Bay with Kelp Sore House in distance
As we meandered back to our accommodation, I took these photos of old boats that have seen better days but could probably tell many a story.

Five of the group were staying at the Margaret's B&B called Coolnagrock and the other 6 were staying at John and Jennifer's Hostel called Soerneog View, both of which I can heartily recommend and can be found at

We very quickly unpacked, washed and changed and this last photo shows some of the group sitting outside having a drink before we went along to Dawn's Harbour Cafe.  She had opened it especially for us and Norman, the chef, had prepared a wonderful 4 course meal for us.  After that we fell into bed!!!

I hope you enjoyed the post today and I think by now that most of you know that my replies are all disappearing so let me thank all those that commented yesterday.

Tune in tomorrow for the next in this series from 
Rathlin Island.


  1. i did think the eggs were larger. :) the seals are really cute! and i liked your take on richard branson carrying the souls back from maine to 'home'. :)

  2. Hi Tex Yes the eggs are about the size of a duck egg I would think. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for comment. Margaret

  3. They are itty bitty eggs, I really enjoy the info you include along with your wondeful photos. I remember when RB went down there, I had just returned from an Ireland, West coast England walking trip. I think he was guided.

  4. Ah now those pictures have made me want to go to the sea. It's been a while and I guess I'm due a trip. Loved the symmetry of the Richard Branson tale; a circle completed.

  5. I love your photos of the seals. They're adorable.

  6. Another very informative post Margaret.
    Loved it.

  7. That a great read Margaret and great photos too.


  8. I remember when the Branson thing happened, we all really thought he was dead. Thanks for showing the eggs again, because I had thought they were HUGE, like an ostrich egg! The seals blend in so well, and that can only be a good thing! I LOVE your picture of the Kelp house, that may be my favorite here today! Is some of the roof gone, or was it made that way? I also love the first old boat photo! What was your favorite of the trip? I am so glad I was able to go along, it has been great fun!

  9. Thats a great set of pictures. Hard to believe the the collection and burning of kelp was one of the processes that kept the industrial revolution going! This place looks a million miles away from such things!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  10. A great post , Margaret! Thanks for sharing the eggs, they are smaller than I imagined. I love the seals and the beautiful scenery. I would love to visit there someday. Wonderful photos, have a happy day!

  11. That little Wheatear looks like he's holding a microphone and trying to act like Frank Sinatra! :-) Too cute!!