Protected area type: Areas of Special Scientific Interest
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Species
  • Earth Science
  • Marine
  • Antrim
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey
Guidance and literature: Rathlin Island Coast ASSI

The coastal ASSI is of particular interest because of the wide variety of habitats and associated flora and fauna. These habitats include features such as high isolated sea cliffs and sea stacks, maritime grassland, saltmarsh areas and a wide range of intertidal features. These formations include vertical cliffs and shores of both boulder and shingle. There are also wave cut platforms on both chalk and basalt. The geological exposures of columnar basalt rock and other physical formations associated with such coastal conditions are also of importance.

In summer, the sea cliffs and sea stacks provide nesting sites for a variety of species of seabirds. There are three species of seabird whose numbers reach internationally important numbers. These are guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes and Northern Ireland's largest population of puffin breed among the grassy slopes of the cliff ledges. A small colony of Manx shearwater, an Annex I species, has also been noted in the ASSI.

Other species that are important in an all-Ireland context include an unusually high density of raptors. The raptors use the cliffs as nesting sites and species present include the Peregrine falcon and the buzzard.One pair of chough has also bred there in recent years.

The caves and rocks around the shoreline of the ASSI are used by grey seals as haul outs and resting sites.

Some uncommon and rare plant species occur in the coastal strip including Scots lovage, juniper, roseroot and oyster plant. The latter being protected under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, Part I of Schedule 8.

Towards the south and the east, the coastline is much more gently sloping. This has given rise to areas of maritime grassland and flushes. Small developing saltmarshes are widespread here and the rare saltmarsh flat-sedge is found. 

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