Ireland is overflowing with beautiful coastal cliffs to explore and The National Trust Carrick a Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland is no exception.
The Carrick a Rede rope bridge hovers nearly 100 ft (30 meters) above the Atlantic Ocean and provides access to the small namesake island which sits just off the mainland.
The bridge crossing has existed in numerous forms over prior centuries as fisherman have frequented the island due to its reputation as an excellent fishing area.
I knew that if the weather cooperated this was a stop I’d definitely want to include in my roadtrip through Ireland. After all, the weather in Ireland can be extremely hit or miss and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth visiting if thick fog was obscuring the views.
In this post I’m going to cover everything you should know when visiting The National Trust Carrick a Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland. I’ll cover helpful topics like how to book your reservation in advance as well as recommendations on places to stay in the area.
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Where is Carrick a Rede located?
Carrick a Rede is located along the northern coast of Northern Ireland, in County Antrim. This National Trust site is located near the village of Ballintoy. Carrick a Rede is considered part of the scenic Causeway Coastal route and resides approximately 14 kilometers (9 miles) east of the famous Giant’s Causeway.
Belfast is the nearest major city but is still over an hour away by car. If you’re planning to travel north from Dublin, you’re looking at a little more than a three hour drive to reach this area.
No matter where your journey begins you’ll probably need to rent a car for your travels across Ireland. This will come in handy for reaching far flung corners of the island such as the Dingle Peninsula or Skellig Michael Island. I’d suggest using a price comparison tool like RentalCars.com to help ensure you get the best deal possible.
Once you’ve secured a car, you’ll need accommodations near this activity. During my trip to Northern Ireland I stayed at the Cul Erg House and Kitchen which is a friendly bed & breakfast located 20 minutes west in the town of Portstewart.
I really enjoyed my stay and the bed & breakfast is conveniently located near the seaside promenade. Be sure to consider that or one of the other hotel options in nearby Portstewart.
What does Carrick a Rede mean?
Carrick a Rede is derived from the Irish language Gaelic with “Carraig a’ Raid” translating to “rock in the road” or “rock of the casting.” The name refers to the small island of Carrick a Rede which is accessed by rope bridge and its historical use by local fishermen.
The island was a strategic location for salmon fishing, and the rope bridge was originally built to facilitate access to the island and the fishing nets. Being referred to as the rock in the road is a reference to the island being an obstacle in the path of migrating salmon.
What to expect when visiting National Trust Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge?
The Causeway Coastal Route where Carrick a Rede resides is one of the most naturally beautiful stretches of coastline in all of Ireland, especially Northern Ireland. Part of the allure of this stop is its accessibility. Visitors have an opportunity to hike some of the coastal route on an easy difficulty trail, with the rope bridge itself serving as an epic payoff for your hiking efforts.
The morning I set out to visit Carrick a Rede I was starting in Dublin and had a 3 hour drive north through Belfast to reach the Northern Ireland coastline. I made a quick pit stop at the nearby Dark Hedges, which is a Game of Thrones filming location, before continuing on to Carrick a Rede.
As I approached the coastline, I started to encounter thick fog which significantly cut down on visibility. By the time I reached the National Trust car park for this site the views were mostly gone and I was starting to worry if I’d be able to see much during my visit.
But knowing that this was my only window to visit Carrick a Rede and cross the rope bridge, I didn’t have have much of a choice but to continue on. The weather forecast suggested the fog would start to break so I decided to have a coffee and a snack at the cafe here before beginning my hike to kill time.
Afterwards, I set out on my hike to the rope bridge. The coastal hiking trail that this route follows is extremely well maintained, flat and easy to navigate. Since you’re only hiking 0.8 miles (1.3 km) each way you don’t really need to prepare for this hike or have hiking boots.
During the hike out you’ll enjoy incredible coastal views (I had to wait until my return hike to see these, once the fog lifted), sheep grazing in the fields to your right and plenty of signage along the way to help educate you on this areas rich history.
Eventually you’ll hike down some steep steps and reach a National Trust monitored bottleneck where they’ll check your tickets and allow visitors to cross the infamous rope bridge. Visitors will be sent across in waves so if you want to take photos or a video of your crossing you’ll need to be ready to go once it’s your turn. You can’t just meander about on the bridge.
Once you reach the other side you’ll be able to freely walk around the island green space and enjoy views looking back at the bridge and Irish mainland. You can spend as much time as you’d like here once you cross the bridge so it would make for a great spot to stop and enjoy a packed lunch or snack.
By this time the fog was just starting to lift and I was finally able to enjoy some of the views I came here to see. The low visibility did create a cool moody vibe when crossing the bridge, but otherwise it was a bit of a nuisance. Try to time your visit to this area when skies are clear or you could end up disappointed like I nearly was!
This was one of my favorite stops along the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland and one I’d definitely recommend you visit during your travels across the Emerald Isle.
How long does it take to see Carrick a Rede?
The walk from the car park to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge is approximately 1.3 kilometer (0.8 miles) and takes about 20 minutes each way without much stopping. While you only need to budget around 40 minutes of walking time to get to and from the island, be sure to budget additional time for taking photos, hanging out on the island and exploring some of the different island overlook viewpoints.
There’s also an ice cream and snack stand near the parking lot which makes for a great pit stop after returning from the bridge. I spent a total of about 2 hours at this National Trust site taking in the views, doing some photography and enjoying a coffee at the snack stand after my short hike.
Do you have to pay to cross the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge?
Yes, you have to pay to cross the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge. The site is managed by the Northern Ireland National Trust, and there is an admission fee for visitors. The fees help support the conservation and maintenance of the site. If you happen to be a National Trust member, you’ll be able to access the bridge for free.
I’d suggest checking the National Trust website for the most up-to-date pricing and visitor information. To avoid the risk of bridge crossing slots selling out during your intended arrival time, I’d highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance online.
How scary is the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge?
The Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge can be scary for some visitors, particularly those with a fear of heights. The bridge is suspended 30 meters (98 feet) above the sea and spans a distance of 20 meters (66 feet). While the bridge is well-maintained and safe to cross, the height and movement of the bridge can be intimidating.
However, many visitors find the experience thrilling and rewarding, with stunning views of the surrounding coastline and a sense of accomplishment after crossing.
During my visit I did notice several visitors who were uneasy about crossing, but once they got comfortable with doing it they thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
There’s nothing intimidating about the trail that leads out to the rope bridge itself. The path is wide, well maintained and distanced from the cliff edges.
Are dogs allowed at Carrick a Rede?
Yes, pets are allowed to accompany you during your hike out to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. However, they aren’t allowed to cross the bridge itself. You’ll either need to leave them tied up or behind with a trusted dog watcher.
If it affects your decision to bring your pet, keep in mind that most visitors will only spend about 10-15 minutes on the island after crossing the bridge.
Are there bathrooms at National Trust Carrick a Rede?
Yes, there are public restrooms available at the National Trust Carrick a Rede site. The facilities are located near the car park, which is also where you’ll find the on site restaurant.
It’s a good idea to use the restrooms before starting your walk to the rope bridge, as there are no facilities once you leave this area.
Is there food at Carrick a Rede?
There is a small cafe near the Carrick a Rede car park, where you can purchase light refreshments, snacks, and drinks. The café is typically open during the main visitor season (April to October). Outside of these months, it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and water, as the cafe may be closed or have limited opening hours.
This is the perfect place to enjoy a hot americano or cold ice cream cone after visiting the island.
What is the best time of year to visit National Trust Carrick a Rede?
I’d advise scheduling your trip to Carrick a Rede during the summer or shoulder months which are characterized by longer days, warmer temperatures, and minimal rainfall. My trip to Ireland started at the end of May and spilled into early June.
May is traditionally one of the driest months in Ireland and we were lucky enough to avoid seeing a single drop of rain during our travels across the island. Not only that, but visiting during late May allows you to avoid peak summer tourism season.
This is also a great time of year to enjoy Ireland’s best kept secret, which are the many amazing beaches that dot the island. Be sure to read the post covering my favorite Irish beach if you need inspiration on that front!
Actually, the weather conditions during my hike out to the island were the worst I had encountered on this trip. A thick layer of fog and rolled in obscuring views and limiting visibility.
Fortunately, the fog started clearing up by the time and I had crossed the rope bridge and I was able to enjoy this area to its fullest during my return hike. Weather in Ireland is notoriously volatile and I couldn’t believe the difference one hour made!
If you’re having a difficult time with your trip planning process be sure to check out some of my travel planning guides. I have a post covering my favorite money saving airfare hacks along with another that covers tips for planning travel abroad.
What is the best time of day to visit National Trust Carrick a Rede?
Like many popular tourist destinations, the best time of day to visit National Trust Carrick a Rede is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. This can help you avoid the busiest times and have a more relaxed experience. Not only that, but the lighting can be particularly beautiful for photography in the early morning or late afternoon.
While avoiding crowds should be one consideration, be sure to check the weather carefully when planning your visit. Try to visit not only when conditions are dry, but also when the skies are clear so you don’t run into foggy conditions like I did!
Is The Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge safe for children?
If you intend to visit the Carrick a Rede rope bridge with small children I’d only do so if they’re comfortable with heights. Additionally, you’ll want to supervise them closely as they cross the bridge and ensure they can reach the hand rope to guide themselves across.
Outside of the rope bridge crossing itself, the island and hike leading out to the bridge are very safe for small children.
Is The Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge dangerous?
While the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge may appear intimidating due to its height and movement, it is well built and safe to cross. The National Trust ensures that the bridge is regularly inspected and maintained to the highest safety standards.
I never felt unsafe at any point while making the bridge crossing. Just be sure to take your time and keep your focus on crossing safely. It might be tempting to record a video of yourself while crossing but avoid doing anything that might distract you from focusing on your footwork and you’ll be fine!
Check out these activities available in the area
Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.
Is visiting Carrick a Rede worth it?
My experience crossing the Carrick a Rede rope bridge was one of my favorite activities from my time in Northern Ireland. The area provides a unique blend of incredible coastal scenery, history and adventure.
The Causeway Coastal Route gives other popular areas in Ireland, such as the Cliffs of Moher, a real run for their money.
While you can experience beautiful coastal scenery elsewhere in Ireland, the opportunity to cross the rope bridge and walk out onto an island separate from the Irish mainland is one aspect to this activity that really sets it apart from others.
Looking for more Ireland travel inspiration? Be sure to check out the video I created highlighting the most beautiful Ireland landscapes that I encountered during my trip on YouTube.
That video includes footage from the incredible Slieve League Cliffs which is another worthwhile stop to consider adding to your Ireland trip itinerary. You can even stop at a roadside waterfall called Assaranca on your way to visit.
Thanks for reading and I hope this post convinced you to check out the National Trust Carrick a Rede rope bridge during your next trip to Northern Ireland!