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Carrick–a- Rede Rope Bridge

Northern Ireland

     Islands and cliffs, seabirds and shorelines, and an exciting walk across a narrow rope bridge await the hiker who visits Carrick-a-Rede—derived from the Irish language, the most popular interpretation of this placename is “the rock in the road.”

     A short 1km (0.5 mile) long coastal footpath leads from the car park to Carrick–a- Rede Rope Bridge—a shaky 48 inch wide, 67 foot long, 80 foot high rope suspension bridge connecting the mainland and Carrick Island. As you make your way down the coastal path, mind your footing as you admire the limestone sea cliffs of Larrybane and the beauty of the area’s flora and fauna, as the route contains steep steps (161 by most counts) that can be slippery when wet—as is often the case.

     The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is the only means of crossing the windy gap between the cliff and the basalt sea stack offshore—originally the bridge consisted of a meager walkway with a single guide rope. Today, the bridge is engineered to support six tons, sports two guide ropes as railings, and is monitored by a warden who controls foot traffic and closes the bridge during dangerous wind conditions. Indeed, the National Trust has made the bridge more stable, but be warned, it still sways enough to send shivers up your spine and turn a few knuckles white.

     The first few steps out onto the bridge, with the ocean waves crashing into the rocks 30 meters below your feet, are exhilarating to say the least. Eventually, you reach Carrick Island where you can explore the surroundings, take in the views of Scotland and Rathlin Island, and observe the diverse birdlife—guillemots, fulmar, kittiwakes, and razorbills share nesting spots on the west side of Carrick and the adjoining mainland. Soak in the view, admire our feathered friends and then prepare to return to the mainland—brace yourself for a second helping of adrenaline, because the only way off the island is back across the swinging bridge.

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