Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Posted on
Oct 7, 2012
Posted in: Attractions

My husband, about to cross Carrick-a-Rede.

I recently learned that I’m not all that afraid of heights.

I kind of hoped that I would be. Fear of heights is your brain’s way of saying, “Don’t take us tumbling off a cliff, please.”

It’s a completely logical and sensible fear, and most people who experience it are simply having a normal, primal reaction to a legitimate danger. I’ve reasoned that those who fear heights spend more time on stable land, having lovely rolls in the hay with people who are similarly afraid of heights, passing on their logical, height-fearing genes to future generations.

That sounds scientifically accurate, right?

So when we visited the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and I didn’t get a hint of vertigo, didn’t gasp in fear once – and indeed, I stood there taking pictures and not even holding on to the ropes that lined the bridge – well, all of that told me one thing: the universe is probably trying to kick me out of the gene pool.

I think the people behind me were frustrated that I wasn’t moving faster.

Right. I get it, Mother Nature. Thanks. Please excuse me while I go punch myself in the uterus.

The drive from Belfast and Carrick-a-Rede is supposedly one of the prettiest in the world. And indeed, it was lovely, though I missed most of it. It was Rand’s first time both driving a stick shift, and driving on the opposite side of the road, so my eyes were squeezed shut for most of the drive, as I treated us both to a rousing rendition of “Oh my god we’re gonna die.” (The lyrics to this little ditty are shockingly simple, and, not coincidentally, also comprise the name of the song. Some of you might have even sung a few rounds of it yourselves while traveling).

See? I am afraid of some things. Like my husband behind the wheel of a manual vehicle, driving on the left.

Needless to say, Rand did not appreciate my added soundtrack.

Having faced certain death on the roadway, the rope bridge seemed like no big deal.

Carrick-a-Rede is located in the northeastern most corner of Northern Ireland. So northeast, in fact, that you can see Scotland, as my husband is so subtly pointing out in this photo:

Want to know what will bring you happiness in life, kids? Fall in love with a huge dork.

The bridge spans over rocks and crashing waves a hundred feet below, connecting the mainland with Carrickarede island, which is uninhabited (there isn’t even a Tesco) and gorgeous. The bridge – which has had many iterations over the years – has been in place in one form or another for close to four centuries.

Fishermen would walk over to the island via the bridge and cast off their fishing nets, but that no longer occurs (in part because, after decades and decades of swimming to their deaths, the fish finally smartened up and went somewhere else. Either that, or overfishing is to blame. But I prefer to think it was smart fish.)

In the past, it only had a rope handle on one side. This has since been rectified, and there are now handles on either side of the bridge, which poor, logical, height-fearing souls can clutch to their heart’s content.

See? Logical. I bet they have dozens of children.

Notice that my husband’s need to cling to the handles of the bridge does not prevent him from striking a rather dashing pose.

Me? I just sauntered across without holding on, snapping photos left and right. I’ve heard that being on the short side makes the bridge far less frightening – for me, it meant that the ropes on either side came up to nearly my armpits. Coupled with my -ahem – low center of gravity (that’s physics-speak for a big butt), I did not fear tumbling over the side for even a second.

The views from the bridge and island are fairly spectacular.

They warn you that you are exploring at your own peril: there are few guards and railings on the island, and if you go tumbling off the edge, that’s your problem. Parents are advised to keep an eye on children.

Similarly, Everywhereists are advised to keep an eye on Rands.

My husband, as I’ve noted before, has a nasty habit of getting way to close to the edge of things. He fears nothing, the poor fool. It’s probably why he had no problem renting a car he didn’t know how to drive, and jettisoning down tiny, winding roads, with cliffs on one side and a jagged rock wall on the other.

And while I have no problem with ropes and heights, I did have a problem with the mental image of my husband tumbling off a cliff. After a few minutes of exploring (during which Rand went far too close to the edge and I nervously lagged behind), I called him back, grabbed him and held him tight.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he protested.

“Damn right, you aren’t,” I replied. With a firm arm around him, we carefully walked back over the bridge, and onto the mainland. Because while my brain might fail me – might send me toppling over cliffs and edges to my doom – my heart certainly won’t.
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The Essentials on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:

  • Verdict: Yes. The views are spectacular, and crossing the bridge is a lot of fun. Plus, it’s near the Giant’s Causeway, so you can hit both spots in one day.
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  • How to Get There: We drove. Unless you have some experience with driving on the opposite side of the road in a manual vehicle, I would not recommend it. Instead, consider taking a day tour (odds are your hotel can recommend a few). It won’t take you on the same scenic drive, but it will be substantially less death-defying, which is a good thing.
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  • Ideal for: Photographers, birdwatchers, and basically anyone else who loves a good view.
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  • Insider tips: It’s small hike up to Carrick-a-Rede, so wear comfy shoes and be ready to do a bit of walking. There’s ample parking, and crossing the bridge will cost a small fee. If you truly don’t want to cross, the views are nearly just as spectacular on the mainland side. Also, there’s sheep:
  • Nearby food: according to online reviews, the cuisine near the rope bridge is pretty terrible. We ended up eating at the totally decent cafe in the visitor’s center at The Giant’s Causeway, and there are some spots in nearby Bushmills which are also supposedly quite good, too.
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  • Good for kids: not exactly. Older kids will fare just fine, especially if they understand that they can’t get too close to the edge (the cliffs on the island are not fenced, so absent-minded kiddos could risk tumbling off the edge if they aren’t careful). There are quite a few steps and stairs – making the terrain unsuitable for strollers, and somewhat exhausting for short legs.

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