Rathlin centre reopens after large-scale facelift

The clifftop centre has been closed since late 2013
The clifftop centre has been closed since late 2013

The remote island community of Rathlin is set to see an upsurge in visitors next month, as its clifftop wildlife centre fully reopens to the public.

A date has now been officially given for when the RSPB-run West Light Seabird Centre will be accepting visitors, following a large-scale refurbishment programme.

Puffins are among the seabirds that teem to Rathlin in the summer

Puffins are among the seabirds that teem to Rathlin in the summer

It will host a “grand reopening” on March 24, having been closed since September 2013.

It had been hoped it would reopen last year, but in the end only partial access was allowed to the site.

The refurbishment was carried out using £600,000 -worth of funding from the EU, and means that for the first time the public can access the lighthouse itself.

It is still a working facility, and is unusual due to the fact the light which it emits is located at the foot of its tower, not the top.

The refurbishment of Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre has been funded by the EU

The refurbishment of Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre has been funded by the EU

According to Irish Lights, which runs the network of lighthouses around the island of Ireland, the lighthouse dates back to the early part of the 20th century, and stands roughly 200ft above the sea.

Other elements of the refurbishment to the site include a new reception, glass fronting for the visitors’ centre, and new toilet facilities.

In summer, the seabird colony at the site is teeming with puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes.

Joanne Sherwood, RSPB Northern Ireland director, said: “Rathlin Island is a truly special place and home to all sorts of wonderful wildlife. We’re thrilled that visitors to the West Light Seabird Centre can once again experience the spectacle of the seabird colony as well as now being able to explore the lighthouse to learn all about its rich history and the nature beyond its walls.”

Irish Lights, which owns the lighthouse, said: “The Rathlin West Light is a fantastic opportunity to discover navigation technology at work today, the maritime history and heritage of the island and past generations and the amazing bird life and natural history of Rathlin Island.”

For more, go to www.rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland