The north coast of Northern Ireland has been blessed with a great many natural features of stunning beauty. One of the most dramatic vehicles to experience that beauty is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which is a suspension bridge that spans a 30-metre high chasm above the ocean.
The rope bridge is located in the far north of County Antrim, which sounds remote and foreboding, but it’s actually only a 2-hour drive from Belfast. The best way to get to County Antrim is to drive along the Coastal Causeway Route, which provides beautiful views of the ocean and the opportunity to stop at other attractions, such as castles and local cafes, which the speedier motorway just doesn’t allow.
Once you arrive at Carrick-a-Rede, a short path along the cliff edge leads to the rope bridge. On the way to the bridge, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the scenery. Rolling hills and vivid green pasture land filled with grazing horses border one side of the path, while the open ocean borders the other side. As you approach the rope bridge, steep ocean cliffs and islands become visible. National Trust guides are set up along the cliff to ensure that no one waiting to cross falls into the chasm. There was a waiting queue of visitors when I arrived and that allowed me to consider the dangling bridge, which seemed so insecure against the formidable backdrop of the crashing ocean far below and the rocks rising high above.
The bridge was originally constructed by fishermen in order to reach the tiny island of Carrick, which allowed for salmon fishing. The current bridge was made with the help of local fishermen, although it now belongs to the National Trust and is solely used for tourism. When I visited there was a strong wind blowing off the ocean, as is typical in Northern Ireland. As stated by our guide, the original bridge used by the fishermen was constructed of a single rope hand-rail and wooden boards that often had large, irregular spaces between them. I knew that the modern bridge was made of much sturdier materials; however, the wind caused the bridge to swing forcefully, even with the weight of 8 people crossing together.
Traversing the swinging bridge high above the sea rocks is a breathtaking experience and not as frightening as it may appear. The walk across the bridge is only about 20 metres and is over very quickly. Although you may be tempted to hurry along the bridge, you should also take a moment to enjoy the view and your precarious position high above the ocean. On my visit, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was so clear that Scotland was visible.
After you cross the bridge, you are free to explore Carrick Island. The area is well-known for its unique bird and plant life, as well as the coastal views. Once you’re ready to leave the island, you must cross the rope bridge again, which is significantly less intimidating than the first experience of crossing. You can return to your car on the coastal path or continue to follow it around the cliff for a better view of the bridge. I personally found the views from the coastal path, which was also quite silent and solitary, to be even more beautiful and exceptional than those from Carrick Island.
119a Whitepark Road
Ballintoy, County Antrim
Tel: 028 2076 9839
Written by Erin Connelly for EuropeUpClose.com