Should we or shouldn’t we?

We found a particularly fine parkup that’s touted as a perfect view of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, one of the must-do stops on the Causeway Coastal Route. And it is indeed a glorious view. You can see the bridge swinging 100 feet above the sea, connecting the mainland with a small rocky island used for centuries as a base for salmon fishermen. In our car park there’s a constant stream of buses and cars bringing hundreds of tourists to snap the photo; then after a few minutes they leave to drive down the road to the National Trust car park to walk back along the shore to the bridge. By five o’clock we and our fellow campers have the place to ourselves.

We’re mostly content to look at the bridge from afar and use the parkup while we explore other places, like the Giants Causeway and nearby castles. We like the view.

There are a couple of reasons why we’re reluctant to add the rope bridge to our itinerary. For one thing, it’s expensive. They want £15 each ($18.50) just to walk over the bridge to the island. That seems excessive to us. We decided to go down to the coast anyway and walk along the sea, figuring we’ll enjoy the views just as much even if we don’t walk across the bridge, which is short by rope bridge standards. We’ve been on others, longer if not as high, in Costa Rica and New Zealand.

Then we discovered that the powers that be erected a height barrier at the beginning of the access road leading to the official rope bridge car park to keep tour buses out. It also keeps out campervans but there’s a phone number you can call and someone will come and open the barrier. The problem is there’s not enough space to stop while you call and wait. The barrier is at the top of a hill and on a curve and we don’t feel safe with cars and buses zooming by. They sure don’t make it easy to visit a popular place on the Game of Thrones tour.

Our solution is to walk down from our car park following a route in the AllTrails app which suggests a shortcut nearly straight down to the rope bridge. We set off on a perfect day, early enough, we thought, to avoid the inevitable crowds.

After a few hundred meters along the road the app points toward the sea but we couldn’t see an obvious path. What we did see was a house and a “Private Property” sign and a fence. We knew from the map that we were directly above and adjacent to the bridge. If we can’t find the path the alternative is to walk a mile further along the road, then down the height-restricted access road to the official car park at the bottom, then double back along the coast for a mile to the bridge. We were deflated. We looked at our map. The path starts here. We looked at the house. No path. In a burst of age-adjusted rebellion we whistled past the “Private Property” sign, climbed over the fence and spent the next 20 minutes picking our way through as much sheep poo as any random field in Scotland as we snaked our way down to the bottom. Along the way we both agreed that what the heck, we’ll pony up the £30 and walk the damn bridge.

Near the bottom we left the private property and looked back toward the high promontory where we parked.

Then we looked for the ticket office. What we found instead was the gated entrance to the actual bridge, and two young park attendants.

“Do you have a booking?” they asked.


“Do you have a ticket?”

We explained that we’d walked down from the road above and pointed to where our van was parked and that we didn’t pass the ticket office. The attendants looked up at our steep overland route and back at us. I wasn’t sure if they were thinking we’re mighty adventurous for a couple of old folks or merely foolish. Silence.

“What do you suggest we do now?” I ventured. There was no one else about. They hemmed and hawed. Then I had an idea.

“I have this,” I said, and I tapped my phone to show our National Trust membership card, which expired a few days ago.

“Oh, you’re members! Go ahead!” They said, happy to be relieved of a decision. They stepped aside and we stared down the steep steps to the bridge.

Now I have no problem with rope bridges, even when someone jumps up and down in the middle as some idiot did on a long and jangly number in Costa Rica. What I do have a problem with is heights. And this bridge is high.

Nevertheless, it’s as sturdy as you can make a rope bridge and they let hundreds of people traverse it every day, so who am I to let a little palmsweat keep me from crossing to the other side? And the views are absolutely worth it.

They say there’s been a rope bridge here for 350 years, strung up every year for the salmon fishing season. The fishing boats were lowered into the sea then hauled up to safety again with the catch. It’s seems a hard way to make a living.

An old cottage still remains, along with part of the structure the fishermen used to winch the boat out of the water.

Carrickarede island itself is interesting for its geology as the largest volcanic plug in Northern Ireland. We spent the better part of an hour sitting on a rock at the end of the island, surrounded by wildflowers, looking out at the sea.

When more tourists started showing up we made our way back over the island to the bridge.

By this time there was a queue on either side because everyone wants a photo of themselves crossing over and we all waited patiently for our turn.

When we climbed up to the path we had a decision to make. Should we muck our way back through the sheep meadow and the private property? Or take the official path to the National Trust car park, a much longer but legal route?

We opted for the straight and narrow and enjoyed even more spectacular views of the coastline and Game of Thrones filming locations.

It was a long steep walk back up to the cliffs and along the road to our van. I’m pretty sure tomorrow will be a recovery day.

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One Response to Should we or shouldn’t we?

  1. John Halbrook

    Quick thinking, Marce. The expired card saved the day.

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