“I’ll walk the miles from Ballintoy /No shining moon to light my way/Across the fields of Larrybane/And the rope bridge where my love waits…”
Near the end of my first trip to Ireland, our tour group crossed over from the Republic to the North, following the eastern coast from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway. Along the way, our guide stopped to point out the Scottish coastline on the horizon and Carrick-a-Rede below us.
Carrick-a-Rede means “Rock in the Road,” a fitting name for an island in the middle of a salmon spawning route. A fishery was opened on the island’s far side in 1620 to take advantage of the migrating salmon, but the iconic rope bridge spanning the 79 foot gap wasn’t erected until 1755. In its first rendition, the bridge only included a single handrail and widely spaced planks – surely a frightening trip, with the rough Atlantic 80 feet below!
The fishery was shut down in 2002 to preserve the dwindling salmon population, but the island continues to draw visitors. The rope bridge has been changed to increase safety and is supposedly impossible to fall off of, but is still described as a breathtaking endeavor. The views on the island are said to be some of the best along Antrim’s coast, both for the birds and sea life and for the geography. It’s no wonder then that so many visitors – about 250,00 are reported each year.
Admission to the island is £5.90 per adult. In good weather, the bridge is open from 9:30am to 7:00pm during the summer months, and for those able to cross the gap a tea room and souvenir shop awaits.
As someone deathly afraid of heights and prone to passing out, I’m not sure if I’d make it across the rope bridge, but I’m tempted to try. My upcoming trip takes me within 15 minutes of the bridge, and it feels a wasted opportunity to be there twice and not go when given the chance. Any words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated!
Additional links & Resources:
The Golden Book: Ireland, page 109