The smell of salt water with the occasional waft of bird poop along with the noisy seabird colony hit you to bring you back to reality. Standing on a plank of wood strung between wires with only another single thick cable to hold onto, to say the views are stunning is an understatement. Swinging 100 feet above the sea, you are walking across the only rope bridge to get to the island of Carrick-a-Rede in Northern Ireland. This is one of many things to do in Belfast.
The views on the twenty-minute leisurely walk to the bridge are breathtaking. The path atop the cliffs offers views that are only comparable to The Giants Causeway and the Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland. The trail ends at the steps down to Carrick a Rede bridge. Two employees, one on each side of the bridge, control the flow of single direction crossing and do not allow stopping on the Irish bridge. This spectacular experience brings you across the 60-ft chasm with mind-blowing views of the crystal-clear blue-green sea below.
Follow in the fisherman’s footsteps
For over 350 years the salmon fishery in Carrick-a-Rede survived. During its peak, it employed over one hundred men during the summer months. Nets were strategically placed in the water by boat with one end attached to the land. The arc positioning of the nets trapped the approaching salmon as they made their way back up the river for their annual spawning season. During the peak of its glory days, the fishermen would catch up to 300 salmon per day. They would carry the fish on their backs as they walked across the swinging Northern Ireland bridge only holding on with one hand. Some of the fish would be packed in ice and sent to Liverpool and other towns farther away.
As you walk across the rope bridge, you are walking across the mouth of an ancient volcano. Once across look back at the mainland, you will see dark rock forming a broad, vertical pillar up through the white chalk. The dark rock is basalt, cooled lava that was erupted from the Carrick-a-Rede volcano over 60 million years ago.
Sadly, Atlantic salmon has declined so much that it is now an endangered species. Fishing stopped at Carrick-a-Rede in 2002. All that remains now are the memories, stories, and the fragments of the past – the icehouse, the fisherman’s cottage, the nets, ropes, and buoys.
Carrick-a-Rede in Northern Ireland
With teeth larger than stalactites and eyes as big boulders beware Lig-na-baste,
a ferocious sea serpent that has a taste for human flesh.
Only a man by the name of McCurdy wearing a rope of calfskin and brandishing a club with three nails driven into it – nails that have never shod a horse – can defeat it.
On a clear day, you will see gorgeous views of the Scottish Isles and Rathlin. The rope bridge is open year-round, but sometimes it closes due to windy weather. In winter, storms and sea spray lashed this rocky coast, and all the wild grasses and flowers die back. But in the summer the cliffs and grassy slopes, the quarry floor, and ledges are alive with yellow and white, pink and blue wildflowers. This area is a place of sky and sea, cliffs, and islands, fossils, and flints.
The park area is free to walk through, however, to walk across the bridge you need to purchase a ticket at the reception. Check Discover Northern Ireland for ticket times and prices. This was part of my Giants Causeway Tour. You can book tickets for the Giants Causeway tour from Dublin or the Giants Causeway tour from Belfast.