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Rathlin seabird centre to reopen after refurb

An upside down lighthouse beloved by twitchers is to reopen in weeks with a hardy climb down an island cliff face.

The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, which overlooks one of the biggest seabird colonies in Europe, is to invite visitors back for the first time at the end of March.

The island, and its population of 135 people about six miles off the coast of Antrim, is host to 250,000 puffins, fulmars, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes all jostling for space on the cliffs.

There are now 89 steps down on to a viewing platform and a similar number of steps down through the lighthouse – a one-of-a-kind on Irish shores.

Joanne Sherwood, RSPB NI 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.”

Yvonne Shields, chief executive of Irish Lights, said: “The breathtakingly beautiful 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.”

The lighthouse with its red lantern was built into the cliff face between 1912 and 1917 and the light first used to guide ships two years later.

The centre is due to reopen on March 24 after a refurbishment using £600,000 (769,000 euro) of European funding.

It is one of 70 operated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights and is considered one of the great lighthouses of Ireland and the only upside one on these shores.

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Keepers lived in the lighthouse until it was automated in 1983.

The lighthouse’s fog signal, nicknamed the Rathlin Bull and heard from more than 30km away, was removed in 1995 after 70 years’ service.

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