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Rathlin lighthouse celebrates 100 years since it was first illuminated

11th Mar 2019

IRELAND'S only 'upside-down' lighthouse yesterday celebrated 100 years since it was first illuminated

The historic Rathlin West Light is now home to the RSPB's seabird centre on the island.

The light was first lit on March 10, 1919. The lighthouse is still functional and its red light can be seen for 23 nautical miles.

Built into the cliff face between 1912 and 1916, the lighthouse is 'upside-down' because its light was placed at the bottom of the building to counter the dense, low fog that can shroud the island.

Keepers stayed in the building until the light was automated in 1983.

The cliffs beside to the lighthouse are home to the largest seabird colony in Northern Ireland, with tens of thousands of birds, including puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmars.

Hazel Watson, RSPB Rathlin Visitor Experience Manager, said it is "lovely for us to be welcoming people to the West Light in what is a centenary celebration year for the stunning lighthouse".

"We are getting busier and busier each year, so we would love residential volunteers to join us in April and May," she said.

"There is plenty of excitement going on even before the summer rush comes. April is one of the best periods to watch the ever-popular puffins, because they are spending more time out of their burrows and exploring, digging and picking up nest materials.


"Then in May there’s a huge flurry of activity when the seabirds start laying their eggs".

Ms Watson said that while it is "not an option to stay overnight in the scenic lighthouse, volunteers who sign up to stay on the island (often for a two-week period) will enjoy shared accommodation in a cottage on what is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island".

"Visitors who go to the West Light Seabird Centre can also tour the only 'upside down' lighthouse on the island of Ireland. The lighthouse keeper’s living quarters is always a popular photo location for visitors of all ages," she said.

"The light is still used every night and also in poor visibility during daylight hours. The rotating lens is the original that was installed 100 years ago."

Liam McFaul, RSPB Rathlin Island Warden, revealed his grandfather "helped to transport materials to the island when the lighthouse was being built, then my father was a temporary lighthouse keeper".

"I helped cover the role too at one point and in fact my brother James is still the attendant today," he said.

"People who visit love getting to tour the lighthouse now. Prior to the seabird centre being refurbished and reopened to the public in 2016, people couldn’t access the lighthouse; it was all locked up. It’s definitely an exciting thing for visitors to be able to do now, as well as see the spectacle of the seabirds from the viewing platform."

The RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre is open for the 2019 season from Monday, April 1 until Sunday, Deptember 15.

Anyone who would like to volunteer can call RSPB NI HQ on 028 9049 1547 or email

More details about volunteering on Rathlin are available at

Source: Irish news