THE Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival has been a roaring nautical success - that’s according to Moyle District Tourism estimated survey figures.
With figures yet to be compiled, it is estimated that over 7,500 visitors and tourists came to Ballycastle and Rathlin and several thousand tourist enquiries over the course of ten days. The steering group is absolutely delighted with the turnout at the Festival.
The festival, renowned for its music, food and numerous maritime activities, was organised by Moyle District Council, Ballycastle Community Development Group, Rathlin Development and Community Association and sponsored by the Northern Island Tourist Board.
Caroline Carey, Tourism Development Officer, Moyle District Council said, “We are absolutely delighted by the number of visitors, approximately 7,500, to the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival and to this fabulous part of the Causeway Coast.
“Most of us are very lucky to live and work in the natural beauty and the Festival has highlighted all that is good about this part of the world.
“Over the ten days we’ve had numerous activities in Ballycastle and on Rathlin Island, where we’ve had time to celebrate our two communities which are bound by the small piece of water between us, the Rathlin Sound.
“There were many maritime events, one worth a mention was the blessing of the boats in the Ballycastle marina, a beautiful ceremony which ensured safe voyage for all and where a moment was taken to commemorate those who lost their lives at sea.
“One of the other interesting highlights of the week was the Ship Wreck Exhibition on Rathlin Island, it was a unique opportunity to see a collection of artifacts gathered from the various dives around the Island, and saw tourists flock to find out more about the historic aspect of the island.
“Various boat trips included a visit to Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge in addition to seeing the seabirds of Rathlin which allowed the more adventurous to have a watery experience. There were numerous fishing trips plus there was the opportunity to get into a kayak or take a speed boat trip and if you weren’t a sailor by nature it just needed that little more effort.
“The Puffin Boat was also operating from Rathlin Marina allowing visitors to explore the West Light Seabird Colony from the sea, an operation which will continue to do so throughout the summer.”
The festival was tightly jam-packed with lots of different activities for all, sailors and families alike, from murder mystery to guided walks, traditional music filled evenings and pirate themed rhythm and rhyme sessions.
Drontheim, Curragh and Viking displays were on hand and as these traditional boats created a magnificent spectacle by racing around the bay the crowd just stood in awe at what life must have been like many years ago.
The wonderful ‘Big Heads’ from the Giants Causeway were on hand with several stories to tell and it was nearly time to draw a magical mythical curtain call to this year’s Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival. The event finished with an al fresco finale, where picnics were aplenty at the Rathlin ‘Big Lunch’.
“I would like to thank everyone, too many to name, who have ensured this year’s Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival a great success.
“No one person can take the credit, the coming together of two communities and other organisations like the Ballycastle Chamber of Commerce and Moyle District Council has been about teamwork and striving to acknowledge all that is good about our part of the world which is rich in culture and heritage. Thank you all,” concluded Caroline Carey.
More pictures in this week’s Times.