My husband, about to cross Carrick-a-Rede.

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I recently learned that I’m not all that afraid of heights.

I kind of hoped that I would be. Fear of heights is your brain’s way of saying, “Don’t take us tumbling off a cliff, please.”

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It’s a completely logical and sensible fear, and most people who experience it are simply having a normal, primal reaction to a legitimate danger. I’ve reasoned that those who fear heights spend more time on stable land, having lovely rolls in the hay with people who are similarly afraid of heights, passing on their logical, height-fearing genes to future generations.

That sounds scientifically accurate, right?

So when we visited the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and I didn’t get a hint of vertigo, didn’t gasp in fear once – and indeed, I stood there taking pictures and not even holding on to the ropes that lined the bridge – well, all of that told me one thing: the universe is probably trying to kick me out of the gene pool.

I think the people behind me were frustrated that I wasn’t moving faster.

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Right. I get it, Mother Nature. Thanks. Please excuse me while I go punch myself in the uterus.

The drive from Belfast and Carrick-a-Rede is supposedly one of the prettiest in the world. And indeed, it was lovely, though I missed most of it. It was Rand’s first time both driving a stick shift, and driving on the opposite side of the road, so my eyes were squeezed shut for most of the drive, as I treated us both to a rousing rendition of “Oh my god we’re gonna die.” (The lyrics to this little ditty are shockingly simple, and, not coincidentally, also comprise the name of the song. Some of you might have even sung a few rounds of it yourselves while traveling).

See? I am afraid of some things. Like my husband behind the wheel of a manual vehicle, driving on the left.

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Needless to say, Rand did not appreciate my added soundtrack.

Having faced certain death on the roadway, the rope bridge seemed like no big deal.

Carrick-a-Rede is located in the northeastern most corner of Northern Ireland. So northeast, in fact, that you can see Scotland, as my husband is so subtly pointing out in this photo:

Want to know what will bring you happiness in life, kids? Fall in love with a huge dork.

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The bridge spans over rocks and crashing waves a hundred feet below, connecting the mainland with Carrickarede island, which is uninhabited (there isn’t even a Tesco) and gorgeous. The bridge – which has had many iterations over the years – has been in place in one form or another for close to four centuries.

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Fishermen would walk over to the island via the bridge and cast off their fishing nets, but that no longer occurs (in part because, after decades and decades of swimming to their deaths, the fish finally smartened up and went somewhere else. Either that, or overfishing is to blame. But I prefer to think it was smart fish.)

In the past, it only had a rope handle on one side. This has since been rectified, and there are now handles on either side of the bridge, which poor, logical, height-fearing souls can clutch to their heart’s content.

See? Logical. I bet they have dozens of children.

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Notice that my husband’s need to cling to the handles of the bridge does not prevent him from striking a rather dashing pose.

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Me? I just sauntered across without holding on, snapping photos left and right. I’ve heard that being on the short side makes the bridge far less frightening – for me, it meant that the ropes on either side came up to nearly my armpits. Coupled with my -ahem - low center of gravity (that’s physics-speak for a big butt), I did not fear tumbling over the side for even a second.

The views from the bridge and island are fairly spectacular.

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They warn you that you are exploring at your own peril: there are few guards and railings on the island, and if you go tumbling off the edge, that’s your problem. Parents are advised to keep an eye on children.

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Similarly, Everywhereists are advised to keep an eye on Rands.

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My husband, as I’ve noted before, has a nasty habit of getting way to close to the edge of things. He fears nothing, the poor fool. It’s probably why he had no problem renting a car he didn’t know how to drive, and jettisoning down tiny, winding roads, with cliffs on one side and a jagged rock wall on the other.

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And while I have no problem with ropes and heights, I did have a problem with the mental image of my husband tumbling off a cliff. After a few minutes of exploring (during which Rand went far too close to the edge and I nervously lagged behind), I called him back, grabbed him and held him tight.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he protested.

“Damn right, you aren’t,” I replied. With a firm arm around him, we carefully walked back over the bridge, and onto the mainland. Because while my brain might fail me – might send me toppling over cliffs and edges to my doom – my heart certainly won’t.

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The Essentials on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:

  • Verdict: Yes. The views are spectacular, and crossing the bridge is a lot of fun. Plus, it’s near the Giant’s Causeway, so you can hit both spots in one day.
  • How to Get There: We drove. Unless you have some experience with driving on the opposite side of the road in a manual vehicle, I would not recommend it. Instead, consider taking a day tour (odds are your hotel can recommend a few). It won’t take you on the same scenic drive, but it will be substantially less death-defying, which is a good thing.
  • Ideal for: Photographers, birdwatchers, and basically anyone else who loves a good view.
  • Insider tips: It’s small hike up to Carrick-a-Rede, so wear comfy shoes and be ready to do a bit of walking. There’s ample parking, and crossing the bridge will cost a small fee. If you truly don’t want to cross, the views are nearly just as spectacular on the mainland side. Also, there’s sheep:
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  • Nearby food: according to online reviews, the cuisine near the rope bridge is pretty terrible. We ended up eating at the totally decent cafe in the visitor’s center at The Giant’s Causeway, and there are some spots in nearby Bushmills which are also supposedly quite good, too.
  • Good for kids: not exactly. Older kids will fare just fine, especially if they understand that they can’t get too close to the edge (the cliffs on the island are not fenced, so absent-minded kiddos could risk tumbling off the edge if they aren’t careful). There are quite a few steps and stairs – making the terrain unsuitable for strollers, and somewhat exhausting for short legs.
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Full list of categories:  Attractions
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Comments (24)

  1. 1
    Charlie says:

    Sounds divine! I do have to say that you were actually just correcting yourselves to drive on the ‘right’ side of the road. The other side is the scary and not-making-any-sense side – especially at anything resembling an intersection. I once went to the horseshoe over the Grand Canyon and had to begin by crawling out onto the glass. I still don’t think that would make me a good for parenthood!

  2. 2
    Kate says:

    …something about the potential of danger and/or death far away from home brings out the philosopher in us, I think. Mine happened in Wales, chasing my father as he dashed around every crumbling castle we came across. The worst was one tall tower with a low parapet and a gale force wind; I wrapped myself around the flag pole in the middle and prayed I didn’t see him sail over the edge.
    An hour in the nearest pub wrapped around a hot toddy got me over the trauma!

  3. 3
    Lindsey says:

    Looks wonderful! I’ve always loved heights and standing near the edges of things, but I definitely don’t trust others to do it ;) As for driving… colour me impressed. I live in a country where stick shift is relatively common, but most of my friends don’t do nearly as well the first time they jump in my car. And they don’t even have to drive on the other side of the road.

  4. 4
    Kate says:

    This morning I tripped and fell in the Supermarket. Closer inspection revealed I had tripped over … absolutely nothing. I dread to think what fate would befall me on a rickety-rackety-death-be-certain rope bridge. I leave such wanton bravery to you young, glamourous things.

  5. 5
    Taryn says:

    I can’t imagine learning to drive a stick at the same time as staying on what to us is the wrong side of the road! Crossing a little rope bridge seems easy in comparison….(although that bridge would have scared the be-jesus out of me! Did it sway a lot?)

  6. 6
    Meredith says:

    I don’t know why my parents thought it was a good idea for my eighteen year old sister to drive in Scotland on the wrong side of the road, but they did. Let’s just say the curbs got a lot of lovin’ that day.

  7. 7
    Sammi says:

    Ugh!

    I feel sick reading this. I have massive height aversion, I don’t like window seats on airplanes- in fact generally speaking I don’t like airplanes all too much, or flying. I just got back from bavaria, and we went to neuschwanstein castle and onto marienbrucke for the views…. I got about a 6th of the way across, and had to attempt to get that far about 5 times. I just hate heights so much, I wish I didn’t and I wish I had more control over it, because when it hits me I totally freeze and need to get away.

  8. 8
    Emily McGee says:

    Wow, your photos are stunning. I think even if I were afraid of heights, I would be motivated to check out Carrick-a-rede just for the view. I would most certainly hold on to the rope handles though…

  9. 9
    Josh says:

    So awesome, on my trip to Ireland I traveled all the way to this bridge only to find it to windy and no one was able to go on it. Total bummer. Glad that was the not the case for you!

  10. 10
    Sammus says:

    Upon first traveling, my sister and I visited Rome and nearly all of Ireland. Carrick-a-rede was my favorite by far with Giants Causeway being a close second. Hurray for pretty views in Ireland!

  11. 11

    I love the pics you put up! Also I’m sure mother nature does not feel that way about you :)

  12. 12
    Debra says:

    Just a minor point of correction. Your “huge dork” is actually pointing at Rathlin Island. Scotland is close, but not quite THAT close! I admire your fearlessness crossing the rope bridge. I tried it, too, and the only way I could get across was holding on with both hands and never, in any way, looking down. I visited these parts of Ireland last year on a bus trip from Belfast (Paddywagon tours, if anyone’s interested…highly recommend them). You would have gotten a kick out of my tour guide, whose name was Troy, but he pronounced it more like “Try” to my American ears. He was an absolute stitch, and it was lovely to leave the driving to someone else. Will you be posting pictures of Giant’s Causeway next?

  13. 13
    John says:

    Im glad you enjoyed our little country. I wasn’t aware I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road, I shall remedy this immediately. Shall I tell the rest of Ireland or should I just hope they all cop on?

  14. 14
    Winopants says:

    Cool! That bridge is very Indiana Jones. I’m a fraidy cat too, but for some reason I like stuff like this.

  15. 15
    Cheryl says:

    Everyone’s so clever in their comments. I merely want to say that you just ROCK and I feel so lucky to log on to your blog for these comments and images. Thanks!!!

  16. 16
    TwoWishes Tara says:

    I showed my husband your “happiness in life” caption and told him I wholeheartedly agree. Was funny watching his thought process. “Awwww … HEY!”

  17. 17

    Ooooh what fun fun fun!!!

  18. 18
    Kim says:

    Great stuff. I’m going to Ireland in the spring and for some reason I’m oddly looking forward to making the trek across the bridge. I just hope I’m there on a less tourist-heavy day, but surely that’s an oxymoronic wish.

  19. 19

    I have been to Belfast several times–used to date a guy from Northern Eire and visited his family many times–but have never done anything touristy. I’ll be back up that way for my next stint on the ship and, thus, am bookmarking every one of these posts.

  20. 20
    Conor (Dublin) says:

    Geraldine,

    If you went to Dunluce castle (between the Giants causeway & Carrick a Rede), then you will love this picture. It was taken this week, and shows the Aurora moonlighting the northern coast & castle.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/42733410@N05/8074360695/lightbox/

  21. 21

    Great pictures! I can tell that you enjoyed your trip to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge! You are right, the Antrim Coast Road is stunning, with many charming fishing villages and beautiful sandy beaches to stop off! I hope you will have the opportunity to visit the island again as there are many other places in the North Coast which are well worth a visit, such as Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle or Busmills Distillery ;)

  22. 22
    Prajakta says:

    Loved this line: “Similarly, Everywhereists are advised to keep an eye on Rands.”

    Nice post.

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