Located around 8 miles from the Giant’s Causeway, along the causeway coast, close to Ballintoy in Northern Ireland, Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge is a suspension bridge originally made from rope that links Carrick Island to the mainland.
This site is on the world-famous Causeway Coast Route County Antrim, Northern Ireland and is maintained and owned by the conservation charity The National Trust. Nowadays, the bridge is open as a tourist attraction, with nearly half a million people crossing the rope bridge in 2019. The rope bridge remains closed since the pandemic of 2020, with it hoping to be open fully again in summer 2022.
To enjoy an exciting clifftop experience visit the rope bridge to Carrick, a Rede island on the Causeway Coast. This 20-metre vast and 30-metre deep chasm above the Atlantic ocean is crossed by the rope bridge, which salmon fishermen initially built. Individuals brave enough to walk across the bridge to the rocky island are rewarded with amazing views.
The name Carrick-a-rede means ‘rock in the road’, and it is believed the salmon fishermen in the area have been building the bridges to the island for more than 350 years. Over the years, the bridge has had many forms. It had significant gaps between the slats and only one handrail in the 1970s.
In 2000, local climbers built a version of the bridge tested to hold ten tonnes. In 2004 a new design was implemented, offering fishermen and visitors a safer passage to the island. The current wire rope bridge with the Douglas fir walkway was built early in 2008 by Belfast’s Heyn Construction and was created at the cost of more than £16,000. Although there is no record of anyone falling off the bridge, there have been many cases where visitors could not walk back to the mainland across the bridge and were transported off the island by boat.
The island is no longer used during the salmon season from June until September by fishermen, as there are very few salmon left. About 300 fish were caught each day in the 1960s, but in 2002, only 300 were caught during the whole season. The salmon come back every year to spawn in the River Bush, near Bushmills, and the River Bann at Portstewart.
The area boasts exceptional natural beauty with amazing views of Scotland and Rathlin Island. The surrounding area has been declared an Area of Special Scientific Interest, with unique fauna, flora, and geology. Huge caves are visible underneath, and these once served as shelter during stormy weather and as homes for boat builders.
Legend and Life
A car park at Larrybane Head’s base, which once had its peninsula fort more than 1,000 years old. It has however been quarried away over the years, and only a stark quarry face, filled with fossils and flint, is left. There are big caves under the quarry, and one of these was once a boat builder’s yard for a while, while others were used for winter shelter. The walk along the cliff’s top is exhilarating, even without the excitement of the bridge at the end.
The sea below turns every shade of blue and green in summer, while several Mediterranean lagoons make the walk to the bridge seem so much shorter. The bridge was originally built by fishermen working at a salmon fishing station during the summer. Their whitewashed cottage, complete with a wooden stairway to the path and its winch still nestles in the only shelter on the island.
The bridge is one of the most amazing experiences on Northern Ireland’s causeway coast.
Every single step seems to move the bridge slightly, even on the calmest day, and its 20 metres length seem like it belongs in an adventure movie. Although the bridge was initially built with rope and only had a single handrail, the fishermen did an excellent job of it, and nobody was ever injured crossing the bridge.
On the modern bridge, ropes are only used for the netting beside the bridge, the lashings that hold the Douglas fir boards in place and the latticework sides. The bridge’s strength comes from the upper steel handrails which have been designed to carry 10 tons.
Nearly 500,000 visitors come to the bridge every year.
The terror the bridge holds for many lies in the thought that a mere one-inch thick board stands between you and the waves and rocks below, 30 metres down. Once you have made it safely to the island, it is an experience like no other. The island has a unique, undisturbed and isolated quality, even though the same fantastic views over the Atlantic ocean of the Scottish Isles and Rathlin can be enjoyed from many other places on the north coast.
Although the rocks are the typical mix of limestone and basalt commonly found in this area, the basalt takes on its unique forms. Some of it is smooth like it’s been made from plasticine, while other pieces stand in tall precariously crumbling columns.
The permanent residents of nesting razorbills, guillemots and fulmars are worth seeing.
Carrick a rede island is one of the best examples of a volcanic plug in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Erosion by the Sea of Moyle/Irish Sea has exposed this old volcano’s neck.
The violence of molten rock punched through the soft limestone 60 million years ago can be observed via geological evidence such as Explosion breccias, Tuff, grey volcanic ash, and explosion bobs in the layers of the Island’s rock and its surroundings.
The characteristic Ulster Chalk, topped by basalt cliffs can be found along the North Antrim coast, which forms much of the Antrim plateau. The ancient volcanic pipe has deposited dolerite, a rock more robust than basalt, at Carrickarede, and this erodes much more slowly. To the south and behind the dolerite, the vent has been filled with pyroclastic rocks that deteriorate much easier to form a coarse tuff agglomerate. This small island was the eventual product of the combination of the softer rock behind and the hard rock out front that were eroded by the waves over time.
The island has big caves that are most visible during low tide. It is believed that the caves originally provided shelter for fishing vessels during stormy weather and were also used as homes for boat builders.
The ocean around the area has a natural blue colour that sometimes turns green, making the area very interesting. Unique fauna and flora cover the island and there are many bird colonies that play a crucial role in the ecology of the area. Razorbills for example live on the island and only come back to nest and mate. The island’s cliffs are covered by thrifts and birdsfoot trefoil, giving the island a paradise-like feel.
Getting To Carrick A Rede
There are various routes that can be used to get to the Carrick a rede rope bridge. The bridge is opened at 9:30 am, and normally closes at 6:00 pm, although ticket sales stop at 5:15 pm. The closing time is however sometimes extended due to heavy tourist traffic. In the summer the closing time is set at 7:00 pm while the winter closing time can be as early as 3:00 pm. This can be due to a lack of tourists wanting to go on the bridge or severe weather conditions.
Carrick a rede is located around 20 minutes (15 miles) from Portrush and an hour (60 miles) from Belfast.