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A Bridge too Far???
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland)
Member Name: helencb
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland)
Advantages: Views, Flora and Fauna, Exhilerating
Disadvantages: Too Exhilerating!
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is one of the Antrim (Causeway Coast) must see attractions. The bridge itself is accessed near to Ballintoy, which is only a few miles from Giant's Causeway on the north coast. The bridge is now under the care of the National Trust (NT), which is great for those with membership as of course it means free entry - otherwise adult admission is £5.60 (Apr 2011) with the usual concessions available.
The bridge itself is a suspension bridge, made of rope and wooden planks, which crosses "The Atlantic", or more accurately about 75 feet of it, between the mainland and Carrick-a-Rede Island. The bridge itself stands 30 metres above the sea and the rocks below.
We visited in late April, on a gloriously calm sunny day. We arrived at lunchtime and were able to park up easily in the spacious car park, which is free to all, I understand. There is a nice lawned area nearby and we opted to stop and picnic here after the walk. There is also a NT café and shop area which has some wonderful black and white photos of the bridge during its construction.
Access to the bridge requires walking approximately 1.5km from the car park and ticket office, along the side of the cliffs. The walk itself is pleasant and part of the experience, indeed we took around 45 minutes to walk the return journey, resting occasionally to take in the view (and rest the legs which were rather wobbly for a good hour or two after the ordeal of crossing the bridge!) Would be bridge crossers need to have a moderate level of fitness, mainly as there are 180 steps down to the start of the bridge area - which of course means 180 steps up on your return. The steps down are in three sections, including a final "ladder" section before you join the bridge, which would be approximately 30 steps, I guess. For this reason, it is not suitable for those in wheelchairs, although the path is passable until the first flight of steps. You may also encounter NT staff who sometimes wander along the path selling ice-creams to the walkers.
You can see from the pictures of the bridge, that it has a very simple structure, and is made from rope with just sets of wooden planks along the middle for walking along. The bridge was originally used by salmon fishermen, to allow them access to the island for the best catches, and therefore the bridge was erected and taken down at the start and end of the fishing season. Nowadays it is not used for this purpose, as unfortunately the salmon catch is nowhere near where it used to be. Because of its lightweight construction, only 8 people are allowed on the bridge at one time, however this needs to be self managed by the bridge crossers. There are NT staff on either end controlling the flow to the Island and back again.
Eventually, the terrifying moment comes when you need to actually step on the bridge and walk over. I have to say it was absolutely terrifying. The bridge did wobble, even on a very still day, and I have heard tales, from clearly much braver friends than I, that they crossed it in wind and gale..It does of course take less than a minute to cross, but it was a very terrifying minute! My hubby had walked over much quicker than me, meaning I had no one ahead of me for several metres, which was frightening in itself, he was dealing with his own issues, namely the two women in front of him wanted a photo - so they stopped, meaning he had to as well! The worse part of crossing the bridge is that there is only one way back.... On our return trip, we were behind a family with 2 adults and 3 kids. The kids were a little scared, meaning poor father had to cross and return three times, holding their hands and only holding on himself with one hand. My advice, do not take kids with you unless you will be able to cope with doing the same! Of course braver souls seem to get their kicks from gently making the bridge wobble..Both hubby and I had jelly legs on our return, and I am sure we were not the only ones, judging by the way people congregated before beginning the 1.5km walk back to the car park.
The island itself is small, and there is a path to the top, and you can spend a few minutes or as long as you want admiring the view and the flora and fauna. On your return, for an additional £1 you can get a certificate confirming your bridge crossing. There is an alternative walk back, which takes about five minutes longer, but does have slightly fewer steps, and it also has a great vantage point for taking some bridge pictures, as taking them while on the bridge is generally not the best idea.
I have to say I found the experience a bit scary, and I don't think I would choose to go over this bridge ever again. That said, I do think it is a must do attraction in the area, and so I still rate this five stars. I advise to take a picnic and traverse the bridge on the sunniest, driest, wind-free day that you can! Take heart that no one has actually fallen off the bridge; although rumour has it some people have had to be rescued by boat. I certainly could have imagined that it could scare some people enough to have to practically crawl back over it.
Summary: A must do attraction
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