Yesterday (Tuesday 15 March) the ribbon was 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.
Notes to Editor
1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
2. Great Lighthouses of Ireland partners include the Irish Landmark Trust, RSPB NI, Forbairt Fhanada Teoranta (Fanad Community Group), Clare County Council, Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours, Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Hook Heritage limited, Valentia Island Development Company and Clare Island Lighthouse. Great Lighthouses of Ireland is also supported by Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland. www.greatlighthouses.com
3. Specific development projects funded by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA cross-border programme include:
• Provision of new self-catering accommodation in former lightkeepers’ dwellings at four sites in Donegal and Northern Ireland (Blackhead, Antrim; St. John’s Point, Down; St. John’s Point, Donegal and Fanad, Donegal)
• Visitor centre and facilities at the ‘upside down’ lighthouse and seabird centre at Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, Rathlin Island, Fanad Head, Donegal and the introduction of guided tours at Blackhead, Co Antrim
4. The Commissioners of Irish Lights (Irish Lights) is the General Lighthouse Authority for the island of Ireland and its adjacent seas and islands. Its mission is to provide aids to navigation and allied services for the safety of persons and infrastructure at sea, to protect the marine environment and to support the marine industry and coastal communities. For further information see: www.irishlights.ie
5. The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural fund Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IVA designed to enhance cross-border cooperation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and in the case of INTERREG IVA, Western Scotland.
The SEUPB is currently working towards the opening of a PEACE IV and INTERREG VA Programme for 2014-2020. For more information on the work of the SEUPB please visit www.seupb.eu
Amy Colvin, Acting Communications Manager
Northern Ireland Headquarters Belvoir Park Forest, Belfast, BT8 7QT
Tel 028 9049 1547 / 028 9069 9093 (direct)
Mobile 07736 477 526 (out of hours media phone)