Carrick Bridge (Carrick-a-rede rope bridge is the full name) is a popular tourist attraction on the Antrim Coast. It consists of a reinforced rope suspension bridge that connects the Antrim mainland with the small Carrick Island. It stands at a height of 80 or so feet (23 meters) and is about 65 feet long (20 meters). The waters between and around Carrick island and the coast were popular for salmon fishing and the bridge was initially built by fishermen to check their nets. Initially a simple rope construction, it was first replaced by a more sturdy rope bridge and then in the year 2000 by the current bridge which is reinforced with metal cables and has a strong wooden platform on which visitors can walk. The bridge is open only from February to November. For the rest of the year you can visit and see it but you cannot cross it.
Planning Your Visit
Carrick bridge is best visited as part of an Antrim Coast tour. If you plan it as such, organize your time wisely because the Antrim Coast tour is one of the most full in terms of attractions and you don’t want to miss any of the important ones. Allow at least one hour for the bridge, but preferably two.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is located about six miles from Ballycastle just off the B15 road from Ballycastle to the Giants Causaway. It is well signposted. As you leave the B15, you wind down the side of a hill and arrive at the main parking lot. Parking is free. From the parking lot the bridge is located about 20 to 25 minutes walk away. If you want to cross the bridge you need to buy your ticket in a kiosk located on the edge of the car park and on the place where the pathway to the bridge begins. The downside of this is that you have to decide in advance whether you just want to see the bridge (which is free) or whether you want to cross it (in which case you need a ticket). Best is to make your mind up even before you arrive there.
Once you leave the car park and join the pathway enjoy the walk and the scenery, it is stupendous. Disability access is not good, at least was not when we last visited. The pathway is on flat ground and easy going for the first ten minutes or so, but then has some steep descends and ascends as you approach the bridge. There are steps whenever necessary so you probably needn’t worry about sliding and falling, but if you are not used to walking you will feel your leg muscles working hard, especially on the way back.
Once you reach Carrick bridge the moment of decision is upon you. Many visitors buy a ticket but once they reach the bridge decide they do not want to cross it. It is after all, 80 feet high. Some cross it to Carrick Island but can’t face a return crossing back to the mainland and are ferried off by boat. Having said this, Carrick bridge is quite safe and to my knowledge there have been no tourist accidents. The area around the bridge is also well fenced off in areas where there are steep drops towards the sea.
Crossing the Bridge
Crossing the bridge takes place in single file, though several individuals can be on it at a time. If you are nervous about crossing wait till the way ahead is clear so you can walk as quickly or as slowly as you want. Quite often you begin to cross and then the person in front decides he/she wants a photo taken and stands there in the middle until the friends cross and turn to take a photo and in the meantime you are waiting there getting ever more nervous. If you are very nervous you can always turn back, but don’t wait too long to do it because usually traffic goes in single file and it will be hard to go back if four other people are on the bridge behind you.
On Carrick Island
Carrick Island is small and grassy and you might see sheep grazing there. Most of the visitors walk around for a few minutes and then cross Carrick bridge back to the mainland. Once on the mainland you can walk beyond the bridge to a slightly higher location for some great views and photo opportunities of the bridge.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is managed by the National Trust and you can contact them on:
Tel. 028 2076 9839
Things to see nearby:
Lacada point - treacherous rocks that brought the Girona ship of Spanish Armada to the bottom of the sea.
Steam Train - from Giant's Causeway to Bushmills and back.
Fancy some castle ruins? Here are some on your way:
Dunluce Castle - So close to the waves, once upon a time the kitchen collapsed in the sea!
Dunseverick Castle - It stood for ages - since the 5th century- but the waves brought it down. Ruins in a dramatic setting.
Kinbane Castle - Somebody loved the sea. Another Castle ruin that belonged to the powerful MacDonnell clan.
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