The Rathlin Basin covers a huge area across the celebrated north coast of Northern Ireland. It stretches from Limavady in County Derry/Londonderry to Ballycastle in County Antrim, and as far inland as Garvagh. It falls into four different council areas – Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle – incorporating the towns and villages of Castlerock, Coleraine, Portstewart, Portrush, Bushmills, Ballymoney, Armoy, and Ballintoy.
This area is an outstanding tourist destination, providing world class, breath-taking, unspoilt scenery. The area forms part of a Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Signature project, and is integral to the Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland into 2020.
Within the Rathlin Basin are numerous areas designated as ‘protected’ in some way:
- Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site—the Giant’s Causeway, (an outstanding example representing major stages of the earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; and contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance)
- numerous Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) (areas of land identified by scientific survey as being of the highest degree of conservation value)
- six Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)—the North Antrim Coast, the Garry Bog, Binevenagh, the Bann Estuary, the River Roe and Tributaries, and the River Faughan and Tributaries, (to provide increased protection to a variety of animals, plants and habitats of importance to biodiversity both on a national and international scale)
- a Special Protection Area (SPA)—Sheep Island, (internationally important for breeding, over-wintering and migrating birds)
- at least one Ramsar site—the Garry Bog, and possibly parts of the Lough Foyle Ramsar site, (protected wetland areas, recognizing wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation in general and for the well-being of human communities)
- at least five National Nature Reserves – Portrush, Ballymaclary, Binevenagh, Giant’s Causeway and Altikeeragh, (chosen from among the very best examples of our wildlife, habitats and geology, and publicly recognised by Government for their importance), and
- three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) (designed to protect and enhance the qualities of each area and to promote their enjoyment by the public).