Part Four of Our Treacherous Ireland Holiday.
Just East of Giant’s Causeway as you follow along the Causeway Coast Way, there is a small yet towering plot of rocky land called Carrick Island. Between the island and the main land, among the jagged rocks some thirty meters below the cliff’s edge, exist a westward migration route for the Atlantic salmon. These rich waters have been a local fishing ground for more than 350 years, and it was way back then that the first rope bridge was strung, allowing the fishermen to cross over to the island where the best fishing spots were located.
The walk from the parking lot out to the rope bridge was about a kilometer long and followed along the edge of Larrybane Bay. It was not a gentle stroll, and included descending two sets of steep stairs down to the island that jutted out into the water. The weather was sunny but brisk, and there was just enough of a breeze to give me some concern about the adventure we were about to undertake. Although I felt great considering the walk we had taken earlier in the day out at the Causeway, my legs were just a little bit wobbly as we approached the shack and the man in the red coat who would instruct us on the best way across the ravine. As we walked through the doorway, we found ourselves at the top of ladder like set of metal stairs that led down to our goal. The Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge was right in front of us.
Ok, so yes, it is a rope bridge, but a quick look around also showed it was a far cry from the rope bridge that those fishermen crossed three hundred years ago. It is supported by steel cables and iron chains, but that does not mean that the bridge is what you would call stable. It definitely sways in the breeze…and trust me, there was a breeze that day. Even before I set foot on the bridge, my heart was racing already as my adrenaline level raised almost to that of a panic. Maureen and I never talked about it, but I assumed I would cross first, and she would cross behind me. I grabbed a hold of the ropes on either side of the wooden planks, and started to shuffle out above the water. I was maybe about a third of the way out onto the bridge when I suddenly heard a barrage of profanity that would have made Ralphie’s dad blush, and instantly knew it was my new bride. There was really no way to turn around while on the bridge, so I shuffled my way backwards back to where I started.
I gave Maureen a big hug, and told her she didn’t have to cross with me. I knew that bridges, even the more solid type that you cross over in a car made her nervous, so I was pretty sure this was quite terrifying to her. She refused to listen and told me that she didn’t come all this way just to chicken out, so we set out to make the cross again. The man in the red coat shouted out encouragement from the top of the steps as we started over the bridge again. As I got going, once again I heard the cries of a trucker in a strip club, but a quick look over my shoulder showed me Maureen was determined to make it across. I called back to her as we went, trying to cheer her on as we got farther and farther away from the other side. And then, just as suddenly as the whole adventure started, we were there. We had made it across to the island on the other side.
Of course once the excitement of making the cross has settled down, and our hearts were just beginning to return to some sort of normal pace, there was the sudden realization that the only way back was the same way we just come. So after a few minutes of looking around on the island, we took yet another profanity laden cross of the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge back to the other side, and then back to Bushmills were we had a late lunch at The Old Bushmills Distillery. We would have to save Dunluce Castle for another trip, because it was getting late in the afternoon and we had a long drive ahead to get all the way across the country to Westport. We left Northern Ireland with full bellies and a sense of accomplishment.
We conquered the rope bridge!