A special crossing took place between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle on Friday evening ahead of the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival.
Crews rowed two currachs from the island as a symbolic gesture in anticipation of the 10-day celebration of the region’s rich maritime history. The vessels, the Danny Rowan and The Mary O, hold a special place in the festival’s history as they were made during the inaugural event in 2013. The festival is named after Rathlin Sound, the body of water which separates Rathlin from Ballycastle.
The currachs and their crew were met in Ballycastle by a group of supporters which included the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Alderman Maura Hickey. She said: “What a fantastic sight to see these community-made currachs reach dry land in Ballycastle.
Rathlin and Ballycastle might be separated by a wide expanse of water, but this maritime pathway is also what joins both together. “The Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival is a celebration of both communities, their connection to the water and their shared nautical heritage. With just days to go until the official start of the festival, I was delighted to be a part of this event.” In Ballycastle, an exchange of gifts took place to reinforce the historic links between both areas.
Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival will officially begin on Friday 26th May with a traditional blessing of the boats to offer safe passage to all who work or travel on the water. Rathlin Island will open its exhibition of HMS Drake artefacts – which has extra significance this year as 100 years have passed since the battleship sank in Church Bay following a torpedo attack by a German U-Boat. Following this, a packed programme of events is planned throughout the festival period.
Ballycastle seafront will be transformed into a main hub of activity, with Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market, free family activities, cookery demonstrations, music and dance, sandcastle competition and Jet Man demonstrations just a small part of what’s on offer. Along with visiting currachs, Rathlin Island will also welcome Viking friends from Ardglass, who bring a (charitable!) taste of invasion and battle re-enactment from their boat ‘Ellen Dubh’, star of ‘The Vikings’ TV series. Ian Stephen and Christine Morrison bring a link with the communities of Western Scotland and beyond with storytelling and workshops, and look out for an exciting introduction to islands and seafarers of the South Pacific from some new friends to the Festival.
For a truly unique experience, the West Lighthouse Seabird Centre will be opening its doors for a special sunset experience during the week. For full details on the festival itinerary go to www.rathlinsoundmaritimefestival.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates We look forward to sharing our maritime heritage with you all.