Rathlin Island

Site overview: As the name suggests, Rathlin Island is an island off the coast of County Antrim and is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. It is home to around 145 people. This area has several types of protection, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. There is also a proposed Marine Conservation Zone. All are types of Marine Protected Area and are designed to protect different parts of this special place. This Special Area of Conservation is in place to protect the rocky habitat and reefs, sea cliffs and caves. The reefs here are one of the best examples in Northern Ireland. A number of species occur here that are rare in Northern Ireland, such as the sea-cucumber, a type of sea sponge, and red algae. The north-west part of Rathlin Island consists of a shallow rocky shelf and a deeper vertical underwater cliff. This is home to a range of sponges and soft coral. The sea caves in this site are also home to a number of sponges, anemones and are used by the grey seal as a breeding area. The sea cliffs are home to some species that are recorded as being scarce in Northern Ireland, such as the common juniper, Scots lovage and roseroot.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Special Area of Conservation
MPA Purpose
areas which have been identified as best representing the range and variety within the European Union of habitats and (non-bird) species listed on Annexes I and II to the Directive


55° 17' 41" North,
6° 13' 16" West

Surface Area

33.44 km2
(12.91 mi.2 )


62.09 km
(38.58 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site


  • Reefs
  • Subtidal sandbanks (Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time)
  • Sea caves (Submerged or partially submerged sea caves)
  • Annual vegetation of drift lines