THE ribbon has been cut at one of Northern Ireland’s most unique tourist destinations, the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, following a major refurbishment programme.
Joe Mahon, best known for presenting UTV’s Lesser Spotted Journeys, did the honours and gave a heartfelt speech about his fondness for the island and the people which call it home.
He was joined at the podium by representatives from the RSPB, Irish Lights and the Rathlin Development Community Association who all expressed their delight at the success of the project and their commitment to working in partnership to bring even more visitors to this special place.
The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will re-open to the public on Thursday, 24 March - just in time for the Easter holidays. The work has been made possible by a significant investment from the Commissioners for Irish Lights of over £500,000 thanks to funding from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA cross-border Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
Along with 11 other lighthouses around the Irish coast, Rathlin West Light is one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland, all of which will offer unforgettable experiences and create a deep appreciation of the role of lighthouses and the maritime and seafaring story of the island of Ireland.
The refurbishment has seen a complete upgrade of the visitor centre and, for the first time, it will be possible to access the ‘upside down’ lighthouse built on Rathlin’s cliffs.
In summer, the seabird colony is a real assault on the senses – the sight, sound (and smell!) of tens of thousands of birds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes, jostling for space is like nothing else.
The lighthouse situated at the heart of the colony is a spectacular feat of engineering, clinging to the cliff face with the lantern gleaming red at its foot. It offers visitors a chance to explore this unique, yet fully operational ‘upside-down’ lighthouse and learn about its history, its people and the role of Irish Lights in maritime safety today.
The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will be open from 10am until 5pm every day until the end of September. Admission is free for RSPB members, £5 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Please note that while the main visitor centre is accessible, there is an 89 step descent to the viewing platform and a similar number of steps down through the lighthouse.
For more information about the Seabird Centre visit www.rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland or head to www.greatlighthouses.com to find out more about the Great Lighthouses of Ireland trail.