About Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is a 20m long rope bridge suspended 30m above the sea, which maintains links between Carrickarede Island and the main body of Northern Ireland.
History of Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, a prime spot for Atlantic salmon fishers. Salmon fishing had been happening in the area since the early 17th century, but it was only in 1755 that fishermen erected a bridge in order to reduce reliance on boats to be ferried to the island.
In the 19th century and early 20th century, the salmon fishing boomed in these waters, with up to 300 salmon being caught a day until the 1960s. 80 fishers and 21 salmon fishers are recorded as working in Ballintoy Parish at its peak.
The bridge has been replaced and rethought many times over the years. In the 1970s, for example, it was particularly precarious, with only a single handrail and large gaps in between slats. This was replaced in 2000 by a bridge tested up to 10 tonnes, but this was replcaed in 2004 and 2008 respectively. The current bridge is made from wire rope and Douglas fir: constructed in Belfast, it cost over 16,000.
The salmon fishing industry in the area is long since over: the last salmon was caught in 2002. Increased pollution and over-fishing meant the industry was no longer viable. From 300 a day, in the final years only 250 salmon were caught over the whole season.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge today
For most visitors, the appeal of the rope bridge is crossing it: it’s monitored by volunteers and can only take a limited number of people at any one time. The stairs are quite steep to access it, and it’s certainly not one for people who are afraid of heights. The bridge is monitored and inspected regularly but it’s still a long way down to the rocks below! Terrorstruck visitors have been known to be rescued from Carrickarede Island by boat from time to time.
Unsurprisingly, the bridge is closed during high winds: check the forecast before visiting.
Getting to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-A-Rede is accessed via coastal footpath from the nearby car park. Head west from Ballycastle for about 5 miles on the B15: the turn off for the car park is just before you enter Ballintoy, and clearly marked by brown National Trust signs.
If you’re coming by bus, the Ulsterbus 172 (Coleraine), the Ulsterbus 252 and 256 (Belfast); and Service 402 Causeway Rambler close by. You’ll need to walk the last stretch to the car park and start of the National Trust footpath.