One of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable and iconic beauty spots, Carrick-a-Rede is the only offshore island in the whole of Ireland to be reached by rope bridge.
The heart-stopping trip across the teetering bridge, with its view of rocks and surging tides 80 feet below, is a strong memory from many of our childhoods.
The name of the island translates as Rock in the Road, describing its strategic position on one of the key wild salmon migrations routes along Northern Ireland’s coastline.
Until a few years ago, the island was an active salmon fishery and is home to an old fisherman’s bothy with ropes and nets still intact.
Carrick-a-Rede is on the Causeway Coastal Route and is located five miles west of Ballycastle (B15). By bus, the Causeway Rambler (Ulsterbus Service 402) Bushmills to Carrick-a-Rede runs in the summer; or Ulsterbus No 252 is a circular route via the Antrim Glens from Belfast. Both stop at Carrick-a-Rede.
From the car park, the route to the rope bridge passes by an information hut where a pedestrian charge is levied — £5.40 for adults, £2.90 for children — keep good care of your ticket, as you will need this as proof to cross the rope bridge.
Along the coastal path to the bridge you will notice flower-rich meadow grasslands on the cliff slopes and occasional grazing cattle.
All along the coastal path, the views of Rathlin Island and the Scottish Isles are breathtaking — the Mull of Kintyre is the closest part of Scotland and most visible, just beyond Rathlin.
Immediately below the path in crystal clear sea water, there is often a good chance of spotting porpoises or dolphins — even a basking shark in summer is a possibility.
As you start the steep descent to the island and rope bridge, the noisy seabird colony will become more and more audible by the step. Guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars are the main breeding bird species. Bird guidebooks and binoculars are available for hire.
You will know you are nearing the bridge, as there is usually a line of patient tourists waiting to cross, some nervously. On occasion, if wind speed exceeds the recommended safety limits, the bridge has to be closed.
Having negotiated the rope bridge safely, you can explore the island via marked paths. Visitors are reminded to observe the signs and take responsibility for their own actions. Waiting times are usually in place to cross back over. The return to the car park is by way of the same route or a short circular detour that links back to the main path.
Carrick-a-Rede is famous for its rope bridge that connects the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island. The former salmon fishery, now a major tourist attraction, offers an exhilarating coast path and rope bridge experience from the cliffs to the rocky island, with stunning views of Rathlin and the Scottish Isles.
En route to the island, the grassy slopes and rocky outcrops are awash with colour in late spring and summer. The site is an Area of Special Scientific Interest on the basis of its flora and unique geology — being at the centre of an ancient volcano.
Attractions of the National Trust site include the famous rope bridge, coastal views, porpoise and dolphin spotting, bird watching and tea room.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.
CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.
Walk Name: Carrick-a-Rede.
Area: Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Nearest big town to start point: Ballintoy.
Distance: Two miles.
Time: Allow approximately one hour for this walk.
Terrain: Gravel paths, stone steps, steep slopes (on final section to bridge), rope bridge. First 0.5 km of coastal path is wheelchair accessible.
Suitability: This walk is suited for occasional pleasure walkers or a young family with a reasonable level of fitness.
Access Restrictions: The bridge and facilities are open all year round but may be shut due to poor weather conditions (for all enquiries please contact the National Trust Office, tel: 02820769839). Opening times early season 10:30am to 3:30pm (with summer opening hours 10am to 7pm). 0.5 km of pathway accessible for wheelchair users, with viewing platform for visitors with disability.
Facilities: Car park, toilets, picnic area, interpretation, tea room and viewing platform.
Publications: National Trust Walks Information leaflet.
Walk Developed By: National Trust.
Map: Sheets 5 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop ( lpsni.gov.uk).