The Rathlin Limestone Company

By Dr John Maclean, collated from family papers (2017).

The Rathlin Limestone Company quarry played a significant part in the economic life of Rathlin Island in the early 20th century and it is important that the correct story is on record.

The limestone quarry was started about 1900. All the materials required for constructing the pier, the rails for the railway and the bogies arrived on cargo vessels from the Clyde and were transferred ashore using rowing boats. Continue reading

Richard Branson

IN 1987, following his record-breaking first transatlantic flight, Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson and his pilot Per Lindstrom crashed their hot-air balloon into the sea off Rathlin. They were fished from the water off Bull Point by boatman Tommy Cecil.

Branson donated £25,000 to the Rathlin Island Trust which was used to help turn part of the Manor House into a community centre.

Sadly, Tommy died in a diving accident in Church Bay a few years later.

Eating & Staying

Manor House
The Manor House

Eating & staying


The Manor House has 12 rooms, not all ensuite. It also serves evening meals – although you should book – and a tiny public bar, The Auld Kitchen.
Rathlin Manor House,
 Co Antrim BT54 6RT
Tel:- +44 (0)28 2076 3964

McCuaig’s bar and restaurant overlooks the harbour and is the island’s main pub. It serves the usual bar food throughout the day, including evening meals.
Tel: +44 (0)28 2076 3974

Only 15 mins from the harbour, this lovely b&b sleeps six in two double/family bedrooms and one twin room.
Ballynoe, Rathlin Island,
 Co Antrim BT54 6RT
el: +44 (0) 2076 3983

The hostel takes six people (one room with double bed and two rooms with bunk beds), with full self-catering facilities.
John and Jennifer McCurdy
Tel: +44 (0) 28 2076 3954

Four houses available to rent on the island, three with three bedrooms, one with two. /

NB: Before booking accommodation confirm your ferry tickets.

For more information, see:

Getting around


There’s only one main road on Rathlin, so you have to try hard to get lost. However, the island is bigger than it looks, so many visitors use the minibus that meets each ferry for the five-mile drive to the West Light.  On the way to the RSPB bird colony – the chief attraction for many – you’ll see most of the island’s landmarks.

Few people go to the trouble of taking a car over on the ferry but bikes can be hired from Soerneog View Hostel.




There is a regular service to Rathlin from Ballycastle harbour. Sailings are more frequent in summer than winter but always subject to the weather conditions. Cork businessman Ciaran O’Driscoll took over the ferry service in July 2008 after 12 years of operation by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac).

O’Driscoll is from Cape Clear, Ireland’s most southerly island, while Rathlin is its most northerly. The company operates two boats daily, with the MV Canna – capable of carrying cars, though visitors can’t bring vehicles onto the island – taking 45 mins to make the crossing. MV Canna has been on the Rathlin route since 1997. 

A new boat for up to 97 passengers entered service in July 2009. The Rathlin Express is an alloy catamaran that runs at more than 17 knots, cutting the crossing down to 25 mins.

The Spirit of Rathlin – built by Arklow Marine Services County Wicklow at a cost of £2.8 million – will replace MV Canna during the summer of 2017.
Tel: +44 (0)28 2076 9299