The rain and the mist had cleared, and we had a perfect view of the tiny volcanic island. The only thing that stood between us and Carrick-a-Rede was the rope bridge. A wobby construction of planks and wires, 60 foot across, and 100 foot above the sea below.
In fact, it was much less fearful than it looked. The bridge is closed when the wind is too fierce, and only a few people are allowed to cross at a time. We took our place cautiously on the first plank and walked across slowly, clutching the ropes on either side as the bridge wobbled from side to side.
It was not always like this. There has been a bridge here for centuries, built by fishermen so that they could get to the island to check their salmon nets. In those days there was only one handrope, and the fishermen clambered across regardless of rain or wind.
Flora and Fauna of Carrick-a-Rede
Today’s visitors are more likely to be interested in the birds and plants than in salmon nets. The island was covered with wild flowers – clover, plantain, creeping buttercups, field scabious and kidney vetch. Birds were flying everywhere, sitting on the water, and nesting in the cliffs. We spotted kittiwakes, guillemot, razorbills, diving gannets and of course lots of gulls. There are supposedly also sharks, dolphins and porpoises in the waters here, although we did not see them. (Although we had seen cetaceans – possibly pilot whales – further along the coast a day or two earlier.)
It had been so misty that I had not realised that you could see Scotland from the northern coast of Ireland. From Carrick-a-Rede we had a remarkably good view of the Mull of Kintyre and Arran, and of a lighthouse winking on the headland.