The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is suspended 100 feet above jagged rocks. It is a favourite tourist attraction for daring visitors who are keen to take the ‘rope bridge challenge’.
The bridge is in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and goes from the cliffs on the coast of the mainland to the island of Carrick-a-Rede.
Not for the faint hearted
Crossing the bridge can be a very nerve wracking experience for visitors. In fact there have been several occasions where people who have crossed the bridge to the island have had to wait for a boat to take them back to the mainland as they were unable to face taking the bridge again.
The bridge may be a daunting challenge for most people but there are some who like to live dangerously. There is a collection of photographs at the nearby Sheep Island View Hostel of daredevils cycling on the bridge and doing various stunts such as handstands.
Scenery and wildlife on the island
If you choose to brave the rope bridge you will be rewarded with the wonderful scenery on Carrick-a-Rede. It is a rocky island that sticks out of the sea and provides wonderful views. You can see for miles along the coastline and even as far as the Scottish islands.
Birdwatchers will enjoy Carrick-a-Rede as there are several species to be seen including razorbills, guillemots, kittywakes and fulmars.
The geology of the island as well as the plant and animal life has led to it being named as area of Special Scientific Interest.
The bridge was originally used by fishermen
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge was originally made for fishermen so they could travel to the island and check their salmon nets. When it was first erected it only had a single rope handrail but that didn’t worry the local fishermen who used it every day and were able to cross it easily.
There used to be large numbers of salmon in the water around the area and in the 1970s, the fishermen would be likely to catch 300 per day.
As the years went by the salmon population dwindled until the turn of the century when fishermen would have been lucky to catch 300 in an entire season. Eventually the fishermen abandoned the area as there were so few salmon left.
The only function of the bridge now is as a tourist attraction and hundreds of thousands of people cross it every year. The National Trust replaced the single rope bridge with a two hand railed bridge to make it safer for tourists.
Geology – caves and rare stalagmites
You can arrange to take a guided tour of Carrick-a-Rede and the nearby mainland area. You can even bring your dog on the walk along the coast although they would not be allowed on the bridge.
There are a number of large caves in the area that would have been used by boat builders as a shelter from stormy weather.
A walk along the foot of the cliffs will take you to a small cave which is home to some rare stalagmites and native ferns. Just beware of small rocks or bits of litter falling from the top of the cliffs.