Northern Ireland is home to one of the most interesting bridges in the world, the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge. The rope bridge is situated in County Antrim near the town of Ballintoy. Crossing the bridge is a must-do for anyone who visits the area.
The bridge is classified as a simple suspension bridge that is made out of rope. The bridge links the island of Carrickarede to the mainland, and it is from this tiny island that the bridge gets its name. The name “Carrickarede” is derived from the Irish phrase “Carraig a’Raid” whose literal translation is “the boulder of the casting.” The suspension bridge is made up of a single span which is about 66 feet in length. The clearance below the Carrick, a Rede Rope Bridge, is 98 feet in height. The bridge is designed to hold a load limit of eight pedestrians.
The history of the Carrick, a Rede rope bridge, goes back to the late 18th century. The original rope bridge was constructed in 1755 by local salmon fishermen as a way of accessing the small Carrickarede Island. The area around the bridge was a favorite spot for salmon fishing, and the opening of the bridge facilitated the growth of fishing in the area. However, the bridge has undergone frequent repair and maintenance work over the years and has also seen its original design overhauled on numerous occasions. In 2000, the bridge was overhauled, and a new bridge was constructed and tested with a load of 10 tons. The current rope bridge was constructed in 2008 by Heyn Construction.
A trip to Carrick a Rede evokes a feeling of tranquility as well as nostalgia. The region surrounding the rope bridge is picturesque, with its unique biosphere and geology earning it the designation of Area of Specific Scientific Interest. There are huge caves found below the Carrick a Rede rope bridge, which is of great historical interest because they were used as a shelter for ancient boat builders who inhabited the area.
The bridge has emerged to be Northern Ireland’s leading tourist attraction in County Antrim, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. An estimated 247,000 tourists visited the Carrick a Rede rope bridge in 2009. Heavy marketing has seen tourist numbers increase tremendously and about 0.44 million visitors toured the rope bridge in 2016. A small fee is charged to visitors who wish to cross the bridge. A new timed ticket structure was recently adopted at the rope bridge to facilitate the growing tourist numbers.
The rope bridge is a testament to the effects of pollution on the environment. The waters beneath the rope bridge were once rich with salmon, with Carrick a Rede Island being among the essential fishing spots in County Antrim. Unfortunately, such times have long gone and the rampant pollution experienced in the Bush and Bann Rivers have wiped out salmon numbers. The last salmon in the area was caught in 2002.
The famous bridge has recently fallen victim to vandalism which resulted in the damaging of the structural ropes of the bridge, causing the National Trust to announce that it would close the bridge to allow repair work to be done on the bridge.