One of the highlights of the Causeway Coastal Route in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a rope bridge, connecting mainland N. Ireland with the small Carrick-a-Rede Island. It’s a leisurely attraction with the highlight being the jaw-dropping coastline of Co. Antrim. There is not much to do besides stroll out to the bridge, explore the island, and stroll back, but the beauty of this attraction is in its simplicity.
The bridge was erected in 1755 by Salmon fisherman, and a small fisherman’s cottage still sits on the island. The bridge is just over 72ft long and is suspended 100 feet above the sea. At first, I was apprehensive about visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge with a toddler, but after some research, I realized that it was doable!
The official address of the Carrick-a-Rede is 119a Whitepark Road, Ballintoy, County Antrim, BT54 6LS. It’s about 8 miles east of Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway and approximately 15 miles east of Portrush, Co. Antrim. When we visited the bridge, we came directly from the Giants Causeway Hotel, and it took us about 15 minutes. It’s an hour and 15 minutes north-west of Belfast. They have a free parking lot that is right next to the ticket booth and a little cafe.
5 Tips for Visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge with Small Children
1. Booking Tickets for the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
You must purchase a ticket if you’d like to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. You do not need a ticket if you only want to walk along the Carrick-a-Rede Coastal Walkway, but not cross the bridge. (The Walkway is the trail that leads from the ticket hut out to the Bridge).
You can purchase tickets online or buy them when you arrive; the bridge can get quite busy, so if you know when you’ll be visiting I’d recommend buying tickets in advance. You have to purchase timed tickets to cross the bridge, so make sure to note your crossing time. The bridge is 1km (.62 miles) from the parking lot so time your walk accordingly.
You can also hire a guided tour for £50 per person. Adult tickets are £9 pounds, and children (aged 5-17) are £4.50. You can get a deal if you book two adults and two children together (you get the 2nd child free).
2. Facilities for Babies and Toddlers
There is a public restroom with baby changing facilities next to the little café (officially call the Weighbridge Tea-Room). Although there is no formal nursing room, you can breastfeed your baby or toddler in the café or on the benches right outside of the cafe. The little café has limited food for babies and toddlers, so bring snacks. Our son had a cup of vegetable soup with bread and butter. They also had an assortment of sandwiches, cakes, desserts, soft drinks, hot chocolate, and coffees and teas. There is also a gift shop in the café.
3. The Carrick-a-Rede Coastal Walkway
Getting to the Bridge from the ticket hut is absolutely manageable with a baby or a toddler. I would recommend bringing a stroller if your toddler cannot walk for long distances. You can’t take a stroller across the bridge, but you can walk a good way along Carrick-a-Rede Coastal Walkway with a stroller.
There are a few sets of stairs along the way, but we had four adults, so we were able to carry the stroller down the stairs and continue along. Alternatively, you could ‘park’ the stroller along the Walkway and come back for it on your way back to the parking lot. There are steep sections to this Walkway and the metal stairs down to the Bridge can be slippery when wet. My mother-in-law is afraid of heights, and she did the entire Walkway but stopped short of the bridge and babysat the stroller while we crossed the bridge.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is 1km from the parking lot (about .62 miles), and it took us about 30 minutes to reach the bridge. There are no toilet facilities along the Walkway so if your child isn’t good at holding it then put them in a pull-up.
4. Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge with a Baby or a Toddler
You can’t take a stroller across the bridge, and your kiddo has to be able to walk across the bridge on their own, or you’ll have to wear them across. You cannot carry a child across in your arms. When we visited the bridge, my son was almost three, but there was no way he would have made it across the bridge on his own, so I wore him on my back.
5. Carrick-a-Rede Island
Once you get across the bridge, you can let your kid down and let them explore the island. The rope bridge was erected in 1755 by Atlantic salmon fishermen. Fishermen used the outcrop to catch up to 300 fish a day and built a fisherman’s cabin which is still standing. Approximately once a month the cabin is opened to the public and they have rangers who give talks on the fishery, the cottage, and the rope bridge.
There is not a lot to do on Carrick-a-Rede Island; however, our son enjoyed playing with rocks, watching wildlife, and looking at the fisherman’s cabin. If you are into wildlife then watch for the sea birds nesting in the cliffs and diving into the ocean for fish. Lastly, on a clear day, you can see Rathlin and the Scottish islands.
I’d recommend visiting the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, with small children. It’s a ~2-hour leisurely attraction that fits nicely into any Causeway Coastal itinerary. A few attractions that I’d recommend near the Bridge are the Giant’s Causeway, the Bushmills Distillery, the Dark Hedges, and Dunluce Castle. Even if you don’t cross the bridge, and just do the Walkway, the views of the coastline are worth the trip!
Have you visited the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge with small children? Drop me a line below with any tips that I missed and let me know what you thought?
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