Paul Quinn: Rathlin Walks

View near the East Light

Paul Quinn is an experienced walking guide who can show you around Rathlin. His friendly, no rush walking tours will suit all abilities and his wide knowledge of its birds, plants and rich history will help you to appreciate this wild and spectacular island. A selection of walks – mainly on roads or established tracks – will suit groups from two to 40 people.
www.rathlinwalkingtours.com

Email: paul.quinn33@hotmail.co.uk

Paul Quinn

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How long have you been visiting Rathlin?
I have been a regular visitor for 30 years. On my first visit I walked the entire coastline of the island.

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What is its appeal to you?
Rathlin is the same, but different.

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Tell us an interesting fact.
When the weather is fine, you can hear the North West 200 motorbike race in Portrush from Kebble.

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Any myths about the island you’d like to dispel?
All islands have similar climates. So it’s not possible to say whether you are on Rathlin or Rhodes.

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Is there a question about Rathlin you can’t find an answer to?
Why are the seabird colonies declining and can we do anything to halt that?

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What’s been your rarest sighting on Rathlin?
A Marsh Harrier in summer 2008.

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What’s your most recent discovery?
The RSPB has acquired some new land at Roonivoolin. The name is from the Irish: point of the gulls.

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Is there a question about Rathlin you can’t find an answer to?
Why are the seabird colonies declining and can we do anything to halt that?

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Where WAS Bruce’s Cave?
Why couldn’t he content himself with a castle? The island is in danger of getting blighted with Scottish holiday homes.

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Who has been your most unexpected guest?
A diffident women, perhaps in her 50s. I discovered that she had climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and descended and ascended from the Grand Canyon in one day. She had also unintentionally caused a shut-down in poteen production when she was mistaken for a customs officer.

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Had any wee adventures?
That would be the polite extended-family group. They didn’t look like hell-raisers, but one section refused to leave the bar and I had to return without them.

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Have you seen any ghosts on Rathlin?
No – but many years ago I blamed one for the theft of some sausages from my tent.  How did they vanish and why was nothing more valuable stolen?  I couldn’t figure out who was in my tent. The next day I saw a few grey dog hairs at the bottom of the zip and, perhaps connected to that, a small confident terrier around the tent!

Sponges, kelp & seals

Seal at Rue Point

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Sponges

Rathlin Island is one of the most important areas in Europe for sponges. In 2007, a team of scientists discovered 28 new species in the seas around the island during a six-week expedition, and three species which had never before been seen in the British Isles. Project director Bernard Picton, curator of marine invertebrates at the Ulster Museum’s department of zoology, said the findings confirmed the significance of the area for these small marine animals.

Sponges feed by filtering particles from the water and play a key role in the marine environment. There are about 15,000 species in the world yet only 400 of these have so far been found in the waters around Britain and Ireland.

Divers from the same team, from the Environment and Heritage Service and Ulster Museum, made another discovery in June 2007. A specimen of the rare Fan Mussel (atrina fragilis), Britain’s largest and rarest bivalve mollusc, thought extinct in Irish waters, was found off Rathlin. The mollusc is extremely vulnerable to pollution, trawling and dredging and this is a significant find, especially if a larger population exists.

Rathlin seabed fly-by

Old Kelp Store at Church Bay

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Kelp

A prominent feature of the waterfront of Rathlin’s Church Bay is the old kelp store (left). Until the 1930s, when artificial methods replaced it, kelp was a rich source of iodine and soda for glass and soap manufacture and the islanders made an income by gathering it. Once dry, the kelp was burned and the sites of 83 kilns have been found on the island – though 150 were recorded in the mid-19th century. Kelp production ended in Rathlin in 1938 – 25 years after the Antrim mainland.

Kelp on Rathlin

Parliamentary Debate, Dublin, 1938

Uses of kelp

Seal at Rue Point

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Seals

A colony of about 100 seals can be found at Rue Point on the east of Rathlin. They are easy to approach but care should be taken not to disturb them, particularly in the breeding season. A boat trip is the best way to see the colony, as they will investigate the boats in their home environment,

www.aquasports.biz/ecotrip.asp

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SAC

Rathlin has been selected as a Special Area of Conservation:

SAC website

The threat of plastic