North Coast Boat Trip

First published on NI Lights June 2014

If Carlsberg did Sundays… they wouldn’t get much better than this…

After years of saying we must get out on my uncle’s boat I decided it was finally time to arrange a family outing at the North Coast.  Having visited Rathlin Island the previous autumn with my mum-in-law we were keen to go back for a visit to see the puffins that can be spotted in spring and early summer.  So on a glorious sunny Sunday in June the family troop of 10 set off for Ballycastle where we were greeted by my Uncle Alan, his co-captain Robert and boarded the rib.

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We were coming to the end of puffin season so instead of just nipping over to the island we amended our itinerary to suss out the offerings of the LegenDerry Maritime Festival further around the coast. We headed west for Greencastle taking in the spectacular coastline on the way. We all enjoyed the opportunity to see the coast’s various landmarks from a different perspective like the Carrick-a-rede ropebridge and Dunluce castle. Mussenden Temple overlooking the two mile sandy stretch of Portstewart Strand was a sight to behold.  We docked at Portrush, managed to avoid the lure of the Harbour Bar and picnic’d (or rather feasted – mum & dad know how to pack a hamper) on the boat.

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We continued on our journey and arrived just off the shore of Greencastle where the Red Arrows greeted us with half an hour of flying overhead, upside down, within inches of each other whilst drawing pictures in the sky.  It was remarkable display with the twelve of us having the best seats in the house, they roared past us so close it felt like the show was especially put on for us.

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Shortly after a fleet of clipper yachts took off from the Foyle Lough on their penultimate race to the Netherlands. We raced along side them for the unique photo opportunity as we went off on our merry way back east towards Rathlin.

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We passed The Skerries, a small group of rocky uninhabited islands just off the coast of Portrush, spotting black rabbits (how did they get there??*) and shags airing their waterlogged wings. Coming up to west side of Rathlin Island the sea was full of small guillemots and then we saw what we had initially set out for – the Puffin. One of the cutest little birds I’ve ever seen. We all grabbed our binoculars to spot a few of the last remaining puffins of the summer and the seals dotted along the rocky shoreline at the base of the cliffs.

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Going back to Ballycastle Marina we all had our turn at steering the boat, expertly done of course! and with the sun still blazing in the sky we disembarked and waved goodbye to Alan and Robert.  Of course being beside the sea it would have been careless not to indulge in some fish & chips.  What a day!! Glorious weather, Red Arrows, yachts, puffins and superb company all while tearing up the sea on the rib. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

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If that’s put you in the mood for a trip of your own contact Alan at Aquasports to choose from a list of options. I can’t promise he’ll book the Red Arrows for you, or the sun for that matter, but you will have an amazing day out!

*apparently puffins seem to be keen on laying their eggs in rabbit holes, research tells me 40 years ago two local men took one male and one female rabbit to help attract the elusive birds.  It didn’t work but the rabbit population is thriving!

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