THE COAST WITH THE MOST
After the adventure around the Giant's Causeway, we headed east along our world-famous coastline and in just twenty minutes were pulling into the car park of another Northern Ireland icon - the rope bridge at Carrick-a-rede.
OK, quick lesson courtesy of the handy little National Trust leaflet we received on entry:
'Carrick-a-rede (from the Scottish Gaelic Carraig-a-Rade) translates as 'rock in the road'...the rock being the island and the road being the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey...for over 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge from the mainland over to the island'.
And now a quick heads up. With our country's growing popularity with worldwide tourists, coaches and cars whiz among Northern Ireland's hot spots all week long - so in the summer time expect to see a busy car park and possibly a queue for the bridge. If this turns out to be the case when you're there - no worries - make a thing of it and sit back for some great people watching!
In the pics below you'll see that we were quite lucky the day we were there - it was the middle of winter, so not many around, plus the sun was shining and skies were blue. Sweet to the beat.
The 10-minute walk from the car park to the bridge is stunning. Make it a 20-minute walk though and check out the various little outcrops and view points, especially looking back to where you came from - the white cliffs are awesome. We actually need to go back and explore this area more another time - you'll recognise the disused Larrybane Quarry from season two of Game of Thrones - so try leave time to explore that on your Carrick-a-rede adventure.
Onward to the bridge. In terms of difficulty, it's worth flagging the short burst of rocky steps near the beginning - other than that, it's a gentle stroll along a stone path with a wooden fence to deter anyone from going too close to the cliff edge.
IT'S GETS A BIT ROPEY
OK, so that was the easy part. The 1km long stone path ends with a descent of around 30 short steps, bringing you to the bridge's 'gate', where a friendly member of the National Trust NI will keep you safe and let you know when it's safe to venture across.
Passing through this gate, suddenly it becomes very real. You'll need to climb down a further 20 steep steps - which can be hair-raising enough if you've any issue with heights - before thinking about the actual walk across the bridge. My adrenaline/mild vertigo kicked in at this point, so failed to get decent pics of the large 30m drop to the crashing waves below - just a few low res screenshots of a wobbly vid taken on the way across, so you'll just have to experience it yourself :-p
While the experience of walking over the 20m long, bouncy bridge is fantastic, the views when over on the other side are even better. Zoom in on the pic below, you'll see the steep steps I talk about above.
A short walk on up and over the hill will bring you round to the other side of the island. Unfortunately the day we were there it was closed off, with probably the politest sign ever telling us why...
Despite the short walk, the pathway still gave us some EPIC views looking back to the mainland. Time was against us, with the winter sun going down - it's definitely worthwhile bringing some food and drink just to sit and chill to the sound of the big waves crashing below.
LOOKING BACK AT THE ISLAND
After tackling round 2 of the crossing and getting back onto the mainland, don't climb back up the steps you originally came down. Head to the left once through the gate for even better views of the bridge and island. We got some good pics of each other crossing from here #Instagood #niexplorer #holymoly #dontlookdown #nofilter
By this time, we had totally expected the sun to be well gone, so parked our butts for a bit and refuelled on some Lindt chocolate and tea.
And totally glad we did - in the space of 20 minutes we saw this guy loving his job too much after the bridge had closed for the day...
...the RNLI boat coming round the headland and on in the direction of Ballycastle (they even waved at us as they passed)...
...and last, a lone dolphin and also an otter (we think) splashing about in the water just below us. Unlike the 30+ dolphins we recorded at Kinbane, these solo swimmers managed to avoid the camera. So in absence of pics, here's an artist's impression of what we saw...
CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO
Kicking all my words and pics to the dust, check out this amazing drone video footage by the guys at Honcho Media (who are also based right here in Northern Ireland) >>>
BALLYCASTLE AND HOME
With all that sea air at Portbradden, the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-rede, plus the local wildlife stopping by to say hello, it was only right we finished off the day with a stop in Ballycastle for some fish and chips at the famous Morton's Chippy.
On top of the cracker views around the harbour behind them, the Antrim coastline and on a good day, Scotland in the distance, these guys catch their fish locally each morning and were recently voted as having the best chips in NI! In the battle of hunger versus some taking some food pics....the belly won. Just take my word - go there.
Til next time!