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One of my favourite experiences in Northern Ireland was crossing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
A magical suspension bridge that hangs over the Atlantic Ocean and takes you to Carrick-a-Rede Island.
Years ago, this was a place that local fishermen used to visit to fish for salmon. But, today it’s a popular tourist attraction.
Game of Thrones fans will love visiting this bridge as it was used for Castle Greyjoy’s rope bridge in series 6.
Here is why and how to cross Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge on the Causeway Coast!
What is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge?
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a roped suspension bridge that hangs over the Atlantic Ocean and allows a crossing over to Carrick-a-Rede island in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The rope bridge is 20 metres long and is suspended around 30 metres (100 feet) in the air!
It’s an exhilarating experience crossing over the swinging bridge and provides breathtaking views of the Antrim coastline.
Carrick-a-Rede is one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ireland and can see very long queues at peak times.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge history
Carrick-a-Rede or Carraig a’ Ráid in Irish means ‘rock of the casting’ and there has been a history of fishing here for over 400 years!
Originally, the local fishermen used to arrive by boat to fish salmon in the alcoves around the island.
This started around 1620 and the island could see up to 80 fishermen here working daily.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge we see today was installed by fishermen in 1755. But, it has changed a lot since it was first constructed.
The earliest bridges were small with wooden slats and just one small rope to use as a barrier. Thankfully, the bridge has been improved over time with more support making it sturdier!
There are very few salmon left here now and so the island is mostly a tourist attraction owned and protected by the National Trust.
This rope bridge sees nearly half a million visitors every year and is one of the most popular things to do in Northern Ireland.
Was Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge used in Game of Thrones?
YES, although the rope bridges of Castle Greyjoy were only inspired by this suspension bridge in series 2 they did use Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to film Game of Thrones series 6, episode 2 ‘Home’.
This is when Balon Greyjoy fights Euron Greyjoy on the castle rope bridge during a terrible storm!
Or, at least they based the Castle Greyjoy rope bridge for Game of Thrones on Carrick-a-Rede’s and changed the backdrop with some clever CGI.
So, if you are a Game of Thrones fan you simply cannot skip a visit to this exhilarating rope bridge.
Where is Carrick-a-Rede in Northern Ireland?
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on the Causeway Coast.
This is around a 70-minute (58 miles) drive from Belfast, 5 minutes drive (1.5 miles) from Ballintoy Harbour, and 10 minutes (5.5 miles) from Ballycastle.
It’s good to note that you will have to walk around 20 minutes from the Carrick-a-Rede car park to access the rope bridge.
Doing some research before you go will help to make sure you get the best experience when visiting! Or, at least know what you’re in for.
County, 119a Whitepark Rd, Ballintoy, Antrim, Ballycastle BT54 6LS. Click here for a Google Pin!
How to visit Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The best way to access Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is to drive. You can find it near Ballycastle on the Causeway Coast route.
You can take the B15 Whitepark Road from Ballycastle and you’ll see the attraction clearly marked with a brown tourist sign.
Carrick-a-Rede joins many popular stops on the Causeway Coast such as the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and the Dark Hedges. So, it’s easy to plan a stop here.
Alternatively, if you’re not driving, you can take the 402 bus service from either Coleraine or Ballycastle and it will drop you off on the road near Carrick-a-Rede.
You’ll then be walking 5 minutes down the road to the main car park to start the walk to the rope bridge.
Carrick-a-Rede can also be accessed on foot via the Causeway Coast Way if you’re hiking.
Carrick-a-Rede ticket prices
It’s good to note that the Causeway Coast Way path surrounding the bridge is free to visit, you’re just paying to cross the rope bridge.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge ticket prices are £11.50 per person and £8 a child and it includes car parking. This is free for National Trust members.
Pre-booking your ticket to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is essential to avoid disappointment and you can do this online via the National Trust website!
I would allow around 1-2 hours for your visit to ensure you have enough time to see everything.
Carrick-a-Rede opening times
The car park is typically open from 9 am and closes at 5 pm or 6 pm depending on the season.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is usually open from 9.30 am with a last crossing over to the island around 4.30 pm in summer and 3.30 pm in winter.
When the car park is closed, the Causeway Coastline will still be open. The area can’t technically close. So, you could easily park elsewhere and walk to visit this section of the coastline any time of day.
You can take some great photos of the bridge from the cliffs when it’s closed to visitors as it will be empty!
There is a large car park at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the tickets to cross the bridge include onsite car parking.
Be sure to have your booking ready to show the National Trust parking attendant on entry.
The phone signal is terrible in this area, or it was for me, so it may be an idea to download your ticket(s) offline before your visit.
Parking is limited so to ensure a quieter visit, I would book a slot either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Also, avoiding weekends and bank holidays.
If you’re not crossing the bridge, you can pay £10 per car for car parking only. This is valid all day and will allow you to walk along the Causeway Coast route.
How long is the walk to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge?
From the Carrick-a-Rede car park, the walk over to the Rope Bridge is around 15-20 minutes on a scenic hike beside the ocean.
The path is mainly gravel and starts out flat. But, it later becomes a little steeper and has some rocky steps to climb down to the rope bridge. There are benches along the way.
Although it’s tempting to make a beeline straight for the bridge, don’t forget to admire the captivating views on the Carrick-a-Rede walk too.
You can see for miles along the coastline and as far out as Raithlin Island and Scotland on a clear day.
An Instagram vs. Reality moment
When you reach Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, prepare for a serious ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ moment!
Although you’ll most likely see photos of this bridge with no one on it, during visiting hours it can be packed full of people queuing for the rope bridge.
As this bridge is very popular and only 8 people can cross at a time, you’ll find that there are long queues on either side of it.
This also means that your photos will have people in the backdrop and getting photos on the bridge can be a rush as you have to cross quickly.
My advice would be to cross over on either the first crossing of the day or the last crossing of the day.
I decided to be the last crossing and it was far quieter at this time. People were able to take their time and get some great photos and people were very respectful to wait in turn.
As I was the last crossing, I got some amazing videos/photos with barely anyone in them! It was a much nicer experience than being rushed along at peak times.
There was even a chance to look down where I was crossing and enjoy the experience rather than being sandwiched in a queue and being herded like cattle lol!
How long does it take to cross Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge?
The whole crossing will take around 30 seconds and will be over in a flash! But, here is a little bit about what to expect.
Once you reach the queue line, you’ll need to show your rope bridge ticket to the staff there and they will be the ones who will let you know when it’s time to cross.
When it’s your turn, you’ll walk down around 30 steep metal steps to reach the rope bridge.
If it’s really busy, you may be rushed along the bridge by the staff. But, at quieter times, you will be allowed to stop on the bridge to take a ‘crossing’ photo.
As I was one of the last ones over on the last crossing of the day. It was lovely to take my time.
The crossing is, quite literally, a breathtaking experience. It’s exhilarating and will get your adrenalin pumping.
As you’re suspended over 100 feet over the ocean by just a small rope bridge with wooden boards beneath your feet, you’ll feel a wee bit terrified. But, it is completely safe.
The wind will whip your hair and the breeze will chill you to the bone but the views you get are incredible. You can see for miles along the coastline.
It’s an experience I will never forget and was one of my favourite things I did in Northern Ireland.
Is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge safe?
Yes, 100%! Although it looks absolutely terrifying, the bridge is completely safe to cross over.
They close the rope bridge in inclement weather to ensure a safe crossing and only allow a few people on it at a time.
It’s owned by the National Trust which is a charity that conserves and protects Carrick-a-Rede island.
They make sure that the bridge is constantly monitored and wouldn’t hesitate to close it if there was even an inkling that the bridge wasn’t safe to cross over.
That being said, when crossing make sure to keep your hands on either side of it and watch your step. Don’t lean over the ropes or jump on the bridge!
Also, pretty obvious, but don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights. You’ll be suspended around 30 metres over the ocean.
Top tip: you can buy a Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge certificate at the gift shop for £1 as a souvenir!
Things to do on Carrick-a-Rede island
Carrick-a-Rede Island is seriously tiny but it’s a very pretty place with captivating views.
Before you cross back over the bridge, make sure to explore this beautiful fisherman isle. Here are all the things to do on Carrick-a-Rede island!
Warning: The ground on Carrick-a-Rede island is very uneven with some steep steps! Wear sensible shoes and wrap up warm as it’s usually very windy.
Carrick-a-Rede Fishermen’s Cottage
No one lives on Carrick-a-Rede island but years ago fishermen used to cross over here to fish for salmon.
You’ll find one lone fisherman’s cottage on the island that is grade listed and has over 400 years of history.
It was a dwelling that was used for shelter in the rain and they used to store their fishing equipment here too!
You can see a large collection of traditional fishing tools and nets that they used for work inside. The cottage may be open to visitors but it is often closed for conservation works.
Walk around Carrick-a-Rede Island
The walk around Carrick-a-Rede island is very short and will take you around 15-20 minutes in total. It really is teeny tiny.
You can follow the rocky path up to the top and then head down toward the coast for some epic views.
They rope off a lot of Carrick-a-Rede island to protect the land and to ensure your safety. So, be sure to follow the main paths.
See views of Raithlin Island and Scotland
If you can, I would always recommend visiting Carrick-a-Rede on a sunny or clear day if possible.
This means that you get the best chance of crossing the bridge but also the best visibility and views as well.
On a clear day, you can see as far as Raithlin Island and Scotland over the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Antrim Coastline.
It provides some excellent photo opportunities and makes crossing the rope bridge even more special.
You may even be lucky enough to spot some wildlife that can be found swimming or flying around Carrick-a-Rede island.
Sharks, dolphins, and porpoises have all been spotted so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.
If you’re a bird lover, you may see Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Shags, Guillemots, and more!
The National Trust staff often record the wildlife that has been spotted on the coast. So, make sure to enquire.
Heading back to the car park
Once you’ve finished exploring Carrick-a-Rede island, you’ll then need to wait your turn again to head back to the mainland!
As before, you don’t all cross the rope bridge at the same time and only 8 people cross over the bridge in one crossing to ensure it’s safe.
You may get lucky and catch it at a quiet moment. But, if not, you will be waiting a while to cross back over the rope bridge.
Once you’ve crossed over, you can ascend up the steep steps and head back to the car park the same way that you walked over.
Don’t forget the Larrybane Quarry Game of Thrones filming location
Before you leave Carrick-a-Rede, make sure to visit Larrybane Quarry which is behind the Carrick-a-Rede car park.
This is another Game of Thrones filming location and only requires a quick walk in order to see it.
Larrybane Quarry was used for King Renley Baratheon’s camp in series 2. This is when we first meet Brienne of Tarth who wins a fight against Ser Loras Tyrell.
She pledges her allegiance to King Renly and asks to become a member of his Kingsguard.
Catelyn Stark later visits the camp to negotiate with Renly about helping Robb. But, Renly later meets a sorry end from Melisandre’s shadow baby!
Facilities at Carrick-a-Rede
There are some free toilets located in Carrick-a-Rede car park before you reach the start of the walk. These are only open when the car park is open.
I would highly recommend using these facilities before you set out as there are no toilets near the rope bridge or on Carrick-a-Rede island!
There is also the Weighbridge Tearoom next door which sells hot and cold drinks, light lunches, and homemade treats throughout the day.
In warm weather, there is outdoor seating and the tearoom has panoramic views over the Antrim coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.
Note: Carrick-a-Rede café facilities are seasonal and may be closed in the winter months
My top tips for visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- Wear sensible shoes – the walk to the rope bridge is mainly flat but there are steps down to the bridge and Carrick-a-Rede island has lots of steep steps and uneven ground!
- Wrap up warm – the Atlantic breeze here can bite you even in summer! It can get very windy, especially when crossing the bridge and on the island.
- Be the first one on or last off – Queues can get ridiculous here. I would visit either earlier or later for the lowest queues. I was one of the last people off the island before closing time and had some nice photos alone on the bridge.
- You have to pre-book – the National Trust usually requires a pre-booking and time slot to visit the bridge! Do this to avoid disappointment.
- The bridge can close in bad weather – always check the website before you visit to see if the bridge is still open. It can close at the last minute If there is inclement weather.
- How far is the drop from the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge? 30 metres or just under 100 feet!
- How long should you spend at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge? Around 1-2 hours, prepare for long queues!
- Why was Carrick a Rede built? For fishermen to cross over to Carrick-a-Rede island to fish for salmon!
- Is Carrick-a-Rede dog friendly? Your furry friends are allowed on the walk if they are kept on a lead. However, they cannot cross the rope bridge.
- How old is Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge? Over 250 years old!
Things to do near Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Once you’ve crossed over Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge there are plenty of amazing places to visit nearby on the Causeway Coast.
There are so many pretty places to choose from but here are some of my top picks!
Kinbane Castle is a bit of a hidden gem and sees fewer visitors than its popular neighbour of Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
It’s a ruined castle that was built on a white limestone headland that projects into the Atlantic Ocean!
It was originally built by Colla MacDonnell in the 16th century but has fallen into ruin over time.
You do have to walk down some steep steps to access it but it’s so worth it. What’s even better is it’s completely FREE!
If you wanted to explore more of Pyke and the Iron Islands then you must make a stop at Ballintoy Harbour nearby.
Ballintoy was where they filmed Lordsport in Game of Thrones. This is where Theon arrives by boat and is surprised that there isn’t a welcoming party!
On the beach nearby, they filmed Theon’s baptism to reaffirm his allegiance to the Drowned God of the Sea. What Is Dead May Never Die.
The harbour is accessed on a steep narrow road with sharp turns so be careful as you go.
See the Game of Thrones door at Fullerton Arms
If you were looking for a place to eat near Ballintoy I would pick the Fullerton Arms if you’re a Game of Thrones fan.
They have a special Game of Thrones themed room inside, an iron throne that makes an awesome photo opportunity and one of the Game of Thrones doors!
You’ll find the Game of Thrones door at the entrance of the pub and the carving is of Daenery’s most fearsome dragon Drogon.
Did you know you can find 10 of these doors on a trail called Journey of Doors? You can pick up a passport and collect stamps at each one.
The Giant’s Causeway had been on my bucket list for years and it’s a magical ancient place that has over 40,000 columns that lead into the ocean.
As one of the most visited attractions in the country, you can expect it to be busy every day.
You can book your tickets through the National Trust but this is just for the visitor centre. You can visit anytime if you’re in the area as they can’t technically close the coast! Sunrise or sunset is so much quieter.
The walk from the visitor centre car park is around 20 minutes to the most famous part with the columns but there is a bus service available.
This is something I really wouldn’t skip in Northern Ireland as it was absolutely breathtaking!
Dunluce Castle is a magical ruin on the Causeway Coast and has inspired many artists and writers over time including C. S. Lewis.
Apparently, these ruins inspired the ancient capital of Narnia, Cair Paravel in the Chronicles of Narnia!
Well, the team of Game of Thrones creators were inspired too and so they used these ruins as Castle Greyjoy in Westeros.
They filmed at the castle ruins but then transformed the keep on the cliffs with some magical CGI to make it appear as a set of toppling towers connected by rope bridges!
Dunluce was built in the 13th century and was inhabited by the feuding McQuillan and MacDonnell clans.
Eventually, Sorley Boy MacDonnell made this his base of operations as the ‘Lord of the Route’ and his son became the 1st Earl of Antrim! It fell into ruin after the Battle of the Boyne.
I would highly recommend visiting this romantic castle, even if it’s just a quick stop to admire it from the viewpoint.
No visit to the Causeway Coast would be complete without heading inland to visit the Dark Hedges.
This is a row of gnarled beech trees that look like something from a fairytale and were planted in the Georgian era.
Today, they are famous as they were used to film the Kingsroad in Game of Thrones when Arya Stark escapes King’s Landing with Gendry and Hot Pie!
As one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland, this place can be heaving. So, I would visit early morning to avoid crowds and avoid weekends if you can.
Even more Game of Thrones filming locations nearby!
If you’re heading down south towards Belfast, I would recommend stopping at Murlough Bay, and Fair Head where Jon Snow meets Daenerys’ Dragons.
Also, you can make a stop at Cushendun Caves which was where the red priestess Melisandre has her shadow baby!
There is Carnlough Harbour where Arya lands in Braavos or you can pop to Steenson’s Jeweller’s workshop that made lots of the props for the show. I even got to wear a prototype of Sansa’s Queen of the North crown!
You can then head on down to Cairncastle to see where Ned Stark executed a deserter of the Night’s Watch.