Crossing the nerve-racking Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a feat for the sure-footed—the narrow 66-foot-long (20-meter) swinging span is suspended high above the choppy Atlantic waters, connecting the Northern Irish mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island. Originally built more than 300 years ago by salmon fishermen—and since rebuilt with sturdier materials—the National Trust-managed footbridge is now traversed by wobbly-kneed travelers who want to soak up the rugged coastal scenery.
Many visitors come to the bridge on guided tours from Dublin and Belfast. Because of the bridge’s proximity to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a 20-minute drive away, full-day tours often combine the two attractions, as well as other prominent Northern Ireland sights, such as Game of Thrones filming locations and the state-of-the-art Titanic Belfast, set on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard where the ill-fated cruise liner was built. Individual visitors must purchase a ticket for the bridge at the site on the day of and will receive a time slot for crossing.
Things to Know Before You Go
It may be best to arrive early in the morning, as tickets often sell out during peak periods.
Wear sturdy walking shoes for the 20-minute walk from the parking lot to the bridge—some of the stone steps along this path can be slippery when wet.
The bridge is not suitable for the mobility impaired.
How to Get There
The Carrick-a-Rede Bridge is situated in County Antrim, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Belfast city. The easiest way to travel is by guided tour. Visitors can also take Ulsterbus 252 or Ulsterbus 376 (also known as the Causeway Rambler) during summer.
When to Get There
The bridge opens daily from 9:30am. Closing time varies by season but is as late as 7pm in peak summer and as early as 3pm in winter. Ticket sales stop 45 minutes before closing. Book a guided tour or arrive first thing in the morning to secure your shot at crossing the bridge. Only a certain number of people are allowed on the bridge at any time, and timed tickets help keep lines manageable and moving. Avoid windy days when the bridge may be closed for safety reasons.
Carrick-a-Rede Island Highlights
With so much attention placed on the bridge itself, many travelers give little thought to the island to which it connects. Though tiny, the grassy islet is worth exploring. Look for the traditional fisherman’s cottage, open to visitors on select weekends of the year, and keep an eye out for wildlife. Seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, and kittiwakes patrol the coastline, while basking sharks, dolphins, and porpoises frolic in the surrounding waters.