If you're planning to explore the Causeway Coastal Route your itinerary probably includes a stop at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
Constructed of planks and wires suspended 100 feet in the air, the ‘rope bridge' crosses the 60 foot chasm between Ireland and the small fishing island of Carrick-a-Rede.
Now a popular tourist attraction, the rope bridge is managed by the National Trust, which handles repairs and makes sure the bridge is safe to cross.
Tips for Visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Be prepared to walk.
You can't see the rope bridge from the parking area near the visitors centre. In fact, you can't really see the bridge until you approach it.
From the visitors centre to the bridge itself is about a 20 minute brisk walk. It is not a difficult walk, but there are some inclines and steps, and the pathway is gravel, not paved.
If you have mobility issues, small children, or use a stroller that can't handle unpaved pathways, this stop may not be for you.
You Must Get Your Tickets in Advance
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge can see up to 2000 visitors per day in the busy summer season.
To handle the increased traffic and maintain conservation standards, timed tickets were introduced in 2017. These tickets limit the number of people who can cross the bridge during a specific hour of time, as well as the number of people who can cross in a day.
How to Purchase Tickets for Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Tickets are rarely available on site and prebooking is essential.
You must purchase your ticket online. Your digital ticket will be emailed to you and you will pick up your printed ticket at the site. When purchasing a ticket online remember to give yourself time to arrive at the rope bridge from whatever attraction(s) you are coming from.
Not sure what your schedule holds? You can try to ‘wing it' at the site. When you arrive a sign will let you know what time the next available crossing tickets can be purchased for, or if tickets have been sold for the day.
Do I have to pay to visit Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge?
If you are only walking out to view the bridge but not cross you will pay a parking fee. Tickets are only required if you plan to cross the bridge.
Watch Your Step
You will give your timed ticket to the staff at the gated entrance to the bridge. Then you descend a rather steep flight of metal stairs. These can be slippery in wet weather, so do be careful!
Crossing the bridge is safe, but maybe not an activity for everyone.
Two planks lay atop the ‘woven' wires that cross the chasm. A mis-step could cause serious injury. Though Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge has no set age limitations, I don't recommend children under 8 make the crossing.
The Salmon Fishery
Almost immediately after crossing the bridge you will see the tiny fisherman's cottage and ice house of the salmon fishery near the base of the island.
This little fishery was the initial reason for the bridge and fishermen would catch over 10,000 wild Atlantic salmon in their nets daily.
The salmon fishery closed in the early 2000s and the little cottage is usually off-limits.
Unless you come the one weekend each month that it is open.
Then you'll find friendly volunteers to take you into the cottage and share the stories of the bridge, the island, and salmon fishing- with maybe a fish tale or two thrown in.
Amazing Acts of Selfie Stupidity
Once on the rocky island of Carrick-a-Rede you are really left to your own common sense.
A ‘guide rope' of sorts was erected when we visited, these spots were very safe and with beautiful views.
But you are not restricted to these areas and we saw plenty of people leaning precariously over cliff edges to get the perfect photo. Don't be that person.
If you are traveling with children make sure they remain with you and understand the boundaries that you set.
There isn't a lot to do once on the island; the real attraction is crossing the bridge. That said, the views seem endless on a clear day and it is an amazingly beautiful spot.
Leaving Carrick-a-Rede Island
Because the rope bridge is ‘one way' you'll likely have a wait to cross back. This is a perfect opportunity to ask someone to snap a photo of you with the bridge in the background.
As you return to the visitors centre take the path to the left instead of the steps you initially came down. This route circles past the bridge, offering your best view of the bridge and island.
If you choose not to cross, this is a terrific spot to wait for anyone who did cross.
Before You Leave
Pay a small fee for the official ‘Over the Bridge' certificate from the National Trust. It's a fun, inexpensive souvenir.
And pop into the on site cafe for tea and a sweet- you earned it!
Discover More Along the Causeway Coastal Route!
Though many people visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge drive the entire 120 mile Causeway Coastal Route in one day, I recommend 2-4 days to really do justice to the area.
Would you like an itinerary with a focus on the Causeway Coastal Route? Check out the Ulster Overview (it's free!)
Spots you shouldn't miss when visiting the Causeway Coast include the Glens of Antrim, Torr Head, Mussenden Temple, and Dunluce Castle – and quite a few other spots you might not have heard of!
Learn what you maybe didn't know about visiting the Giant's Causeway.
Take time for a guided tour of the walled city of Derry (Londonderry).
Find out what you can really expect when you visit the Dark Hedges.
Looking for someplace fabulous to eat as you tour the Causeaway Coast? I highly recommend the Red Door Cafe in Ballintoy. Located between the Giant's Causeway and the rope bridge, it's in a perfect location. You'll find it on the west side of the village down the Harbour Road.