Birds of a Feather, On Boats

Old boat on Rathlin Island

Old boat on Rathlin Island

I like boats. Whenever I’m near the water, I make it a goal to get on one. Traveling on a budget, often one of the most accessible and affordable ways to get out on the water is by ferry. Last week, when I was in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, I paid 12 pounds for a ferry ride out and back to Rathlin Island, just to feel the salty wind and sea spray on my face.


This boat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon..


Another Rathlin Relic


Rathlin Graveyard

Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island. The L-shaped chunk of rock is 4 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and inhabited by many more sea birds than people.

Rathlin is most famous for being the refuge of Robert the Bruce in 1306, between battles with the English. As the legend goes, he was hiding out in a sea cave beneath what is now the East Lighthouse, watching a spider steadfastly weave its web when he found the strength and inspiration to have another go at fighting for Scottish independence.

Rathlin Island Seafoods, as fresh at it gets!

Rathlin Island Seafoods, as fresh at it gets!

On Rathlin, I walked out to the East Lighthouse and back. I asked a local if there was a way to get down to Robert’s cave and he said, “No, it was a good hideout and it still is! You need a boat to find it.”

On the ferry back to the mainland, a man in a sweet Stetson came up to me and asked if I was Australian. I said, no American and he said, “What’s an American doing wearing an Australian hat!?” The man knew his hats! I explained that I was wearing a Snowy River Akubra, the hat worn by my childhood hero Jim Craig in the movie, The Man From Snowy River, one of my all-time favorite horse flicks. I asked him, “What’s an Irishman doing wearing a Stetson?” and he explained that he had a vast collection and this just happened to be the hat of the day. It’s always nice to meet a fellow hat person.

Me & my Akubra on the ferry to Rathlin Island

Me & my featherless Akubra on the ferry to Rathlin Island

As we neared the harbor at Ballycastle, I lamented losing my latest hat feathers: two bright blue blue jay feathers I had picked up on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia before leaving for Ireland, to replace my Grandfather’s hand-tied feathered fly that I left at home, lest TSA have a problem with fishhooks. The blue jay feathers had blown away on my windy walk out to Torr Head, a couple of days prior. With that he plucked the fancy red feather from his Stetson and stuck it in my brim. “This hat came with six feathers in all different colors,” he told me. “You take this one, for luck on your trip.”

Fair Head from the ferry. I hiked out to that point in a storm a couple of days ago.

Fair Head from the ferry. I hiked out to that point in a storm a couple of days ago.

More boast! The harbor at Cushendall

Colorful Boats, Grey Skies


The Lineup


Fishing Boats, Booms & Bust

I’ve come this far north, might as well go all the way! Stay tuned for a post from the northernmost point of Northern Ireland!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
This entry was posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Birds of a Feather, On Boats

  1. These photos are wonderful. And how nice to meet an Irishman that likes Stetson hats and then shared one of his feathers with you. Lovely gesture!

  2. Kalyn says:

    Awesome, your trip looks so fun! Just wanted to leave a comment and let you know how much I enjoy your website!

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