Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
from Walking in Ireland
ABOVE: Rope railings protect against falls but do nothing for acrophobia.
Carrick-a-Rede, like The Giant's Causeway, is a National Trust site on the rugged coast of Northern Ireland. Its best-known feature is a rope bridge that once served fishermen on Carrick Island, a steep rocky islet just offshore. (In its early days, the bridge was narrower and had only a single rope as a railing. Today, the rickety bridge is safely enclosed by a network of ropes on both sides, but not all visitors are willing to wiggle and wobble their way across a chasm that measures 30 meters or nearly 100 feet deep and 14 meters or 46 feet wide).
The bridge is open from mid-March to early October, when it's taken down so it won't be swept away by winter storms. And while the bridge is fun to cross, the real reward is the view from tiny Carrick Island, where--if you're lucky, as I was--you may see a razorbill dive into a clear, shallow pool and fly underwater in search of fish.
There are several ways to reach Carrick-a-Rede (see the National Trust site below), but the best way--if you have time--is along the 23km or 14.3-mile coastal path between the Giant's Causeway and the bridge. Directions and a map are on route card 16 of the Causeway Coast & Glens tourist office's Walking Tours packet. (The route is also on Discover Series map 5 from the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.)
For more walking information, see:
Walking in Ireland: Resources and Web links europeforvisitors.com
You can walk to Carrick-a-Rede from the Bayview Hotel in the small coastal result of Portballintrae, though it'll take you most of the day. Many of the Bayview Hotel's 25 comfortable rooms overlook the water, and the Porthole Bar & Restaurant serves well-prepared Irish food. (Portballintrae is also a handy base for walks to Dunluce Castle and to The Giant's Causeway, which you'll pass on your way to Carrick-a-Rede.)
In nearby Bushmills, home of the Bushmills whsky distillery, the Bushmills Inn is an attractive choice. The hotel traces its roots to the early 17th Century, and the current structure was built in 1820. From Bushmills, the Causeway Rambler (Ulsterbus 376) runs to Carrick-a-Rede and the Giant's Causeway during high season; a narrow-gauge steam railway also serves the causeway, giving you a head start on your walk to Carrick-a-Rede.
For other hotel suggestions, see the Causeway Coast & Glens tourist office's Web site.
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