Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Situated on the North Antrim coast, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge dangles some 23 metres above the rocks below and spans 20 metres between the mainland Carrick Island.
Carrick-a-Rede translates from Irish as ‘the rock in the road,’ a reference to the obstacle the island posed to salmon migrating to the River Bann and River Bush each year to spawn.
For over 350 years local salmon fishermen constructed bridges to the island so that they could check their nets and the causeway changed often over the centuries. The 1970s bridge, for instance, featured large gaps between slats and had a handrail on only one side. Another, much safer, bridge was constructed in 2004 but the current crossing dates from 2008. Built from Douglas fir and wire rope, this bridge has closely lain slats and handrails on both sides.
Though you can still get a good idea of what the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge used to be like from the photos of people doing stunts on the bridge in the nearby Sheep Island View Hostel.
Constructed for just £16,000, visitors can cross for a small fee of around £6 and many thousands do every year – Carrick-a-Rede had just under 250,000 visitors in 2009. Though safer than ever, the exhilaration experienced by tourists is undiminished as they cross the bridge and though no one has ever fallen, some visitors have refused to walk back, meaning they’ve needed to use a boat to return to the mainland. Safety is paramount even with the enhancements to the bridge and as such, no more than eight people are permitted to cross at any one time.
The bridge is no longer used by fishermen as there are few salmon left in the area. While the salmon fishing seasons of the 1960s could see up to three hundred fish being caught here every day, this number had dwindled to 300 over the entire fishing season – typically June to September – by 2002.
Getting to the bridge means a short walk along the coast and there numerous spots along the way offering stunning views out over the sea and you may spot fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, and the many other species of seabird for which the area is renowned as both a region for scientific study and conservation. Indeed, such are geological, botanical, and wildlife qualities of the region that it has been named an Area of Special Scientific Interest.
From the island you might also see birds nesting on the cliffs in the area but the scenery is every bit as stunning, from here you may enjoy a clear view stretching to Rathlin Island which, after Tory Island in Donegal, is Ireland’s most northerly inhabited island, and even as far as Scotland. You might also see caves in cliffs which at one time which served as the homes of boat builders and as shelter during storms.
Any holiday to Northern Ireland will be enhanced by a visit to Carrick-a-Rede thanks to the unparalleled views available here and adrenaline rush you’re bound to experience as you cross!