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Northern Ireland's walk of faith

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Rope Bridge Crossing
Coastal Views
Carrick Island
To put it simply, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is utterly terrifying. Anything that happened to fall off the side would drop 30 metres onto jagged rocks before being swept out to sea.

The view across the bridge
Photo f_shields
It lasts for 20 agonising metres, across from the mainland to a tiny piece of land called Carrick Island. In truth, there's not really anything to do when you get there other than admiring the view, catch your breath and prepare for the return journey. Nevertheless, nearly a quarter of a million brave souls make the crossing every year.

Carrick Island
Photo Qole Pejorian
No-one really knows when the first bridge was constructed here, but it was at least 3 centuries ago. It was probably used by fishermen, who came to the island to catch salmon. Carrick-a-Rede's current bridge was built relatively recently, in 2008. It might not look much, but it cost more than £16,000. If you think the finished product looks scary, spare a thought for the poor people who had to build it! The complicated process involved all sorts of death-defying escapades, starting with someone abseiling down the cliff face. After that, other workers suspended themselves over the deadly drop with just a few thin wires. Of course, these were experienced professionals, so confident in their work that they even let the public watch. The event went off without a problem, and the construction was completed on time. The National Trust ensure that their bridge is perfectly safe, and no-one has ever fallen off.

Did You Know?

Although no one has ever been injured falling off the bridge, there have been many instances of visitors being unable to face the return walk back across the bridge, resulting in them being taken off the island by boat !!

The view down from the bridge
Photo zh1yong
If you're brave enough to attempt the journey, it's worth dragging your eyes away from your feet for a few moments. The view is truly spectacular, with green plants leading down the cliffs to the bright blue water. It's an official "Site of Special Scientific Interest", with all sorts of rare plants and creatures. The other nearby islands are home to seabirds like guillemots and razorbills.

The beautiful nearby coastline
Photo f_shields
Looking down is possibly not the best idea but, if you do, you'll catch sight of the broad caves that used to provide shelter to ships. The water is so calm that it was even used by boat builders, who launched new craft from these shores. There haven't been many seafarers around these parts lately, mainly because the salmon have swam off somewhere else. Half a century ago you could catch 300 fish a day, but now it would take a whole year to get that same amount!

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Crossing the bridge is definitely an achievement, but bear in mind that in the olden days, the journey was even scarier. The wooden planks were spaced much further apart, and there was only one handrail! You can see photographs at the Sheep Island View Hostel. Lots of them show acrobatic lunatics doing some very silly stunts on top of the frail structure. However, even without stunts, crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is always an exciting and unforgettable experience.
Visitor Information
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is managed by the National Trust and is open daily, 10am to 6pm (3.30pm in winter). Entry costs around £6 for adults, £3 children, £15 families. The Rope Bridge can be found on the B15, 7 miles east of Bushmills, 5 miles west of Ballycastle. Giant's Causeway 7 miles. Tel: 028 2076 9839

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