After two nights in Dublin and two nights in Belfast, we wanted to explore some of the rugged scenery of Northern Ireland. We preferred something relatively close by Belfast that would be an easy day trip, but also far enough away to show us the incredible beauty of Northern Ireland. After careful research, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway found themselves at the top of the list. We couldn’t have been happier. I can not emphasize enough how absolutely gorgeous both of them were. We spent most of our time at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge walking along breathtaking cliffs, and of course, holding on for dear life as we crossed the impossibly beautiful swinging bridge 100 ft (or 30 m) above thrashing waves and enormous rocks. However, we were equally in awe of the natural beauty of Giant’s Causeway.
This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you buy something through my site. This helps me run my website and produce the articles that I hope you find helpful.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway were absolutely stunning. On a dazzling sunny day, we drove our rental car 1 1/2 hours on pretty country roads to spend time at both of these sites. Apart from our day exploring Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal county (the highest cliffs in Europe), we didn’t see anything more beautiful during our 9 day road trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In total, we spent 9 days on a road trip exploring Ireland and Northern Ireland. During our time in Northern Ireland, we had three of our kids (14, 16 and 22 years old) with us. Prior to our day trip to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway, we spent two nights in Belfast.
We loved our time exploring this really cool city and all of the fun and interesting things to do there. If you are interested in reading about our fantastic two night/one day Belfast itinerary including information about where we stayed and what restaurants we enjoyed, then please take a look at my article Belfast City Break With Teens: An Action Packed Itinerary.
Accommodation Around Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway
There is a lot of wonderful accommodation near Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway if you want to stay a day or two and explore this beautiful part of the world. For the best accommodation with competitive prices, I would recommend booking through booking.com using the amazing interactive map below.
Location of Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway are located at the far northern tip of Northern Ireland. It is approximately 170 mi (273 km) from Dublin (just under 3 hours drive) or 67 miles (109 km) from Belfast (just over 1 1/2 hours drive). Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway are only 8 mi (13 km) apart along lovely country roads with the occasional spectacular ocean view.
Accordingly, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway are a very easy and relaxing drive from Belfast but an incredibly long one from Dublin. I would recommend splitting up your time and spending a night or two in Belfast to really enjoy yourself.
Why A Half Day Is Enough Time To Explore Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway
We allotted a full day to visit and explore Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway, but before we even left Belfast, we realized that we had a flat tire. There went the morning! Accordingly, we only had a few hours for both. At first, I was massively disappointed as I was so looking forward to our day. Thankfully, a few hours was all that we needed to fully appreciate both of these destinations.
What To Expect At Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge is a rope bridge that is suspended between two cliffs over 100 ft (or 30 m) across the Atlantic Ocean. It was originally installed by local fishermen in 1755. Today, it is managed by the National Trust, a conservation charity, whose goals are to protect the site and its wildlife, and ensure guests safety.
A visit to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is not solely about lining up to cross a rope bridge and then, heading home. It is much more than that. In order to reach the rope bridge, a visitor must walk 1 mi or 1.6 km along stunning cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean. We found ourselves stopping countless times to simply appreciate the jaw dropping scenery that was everywhere we looked. The space is wide open and beautiful. Even though all the tickets were sold out for most of the afternoon, I felt like we had the cliffs to ourselves.
After that, you line up and wait your turn to cross the bridge that takes you over to a small island, very similar to the stunning cliffs along which you have just walked. You can spend as much time as you want on the little island, but the island is very small. After 20 minutes, we had seen enough. Then, you line up once again to walk back over Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and retrace your steps back to the entrance.
Although I did not like lining up on either side to cross Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (I wanted to explore!), it did limit the number of people walking along the cliffs and visiting the little island. I very much appreciated that.
Travel Tips, Concerns And Recommendations For Visiting Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Parking, tickets and facilities at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- Before leaving for Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, you should check its website. If it is a windy day, the bridge might be closed.
- Since many people visit by tour bus from Belfast or Dublin, it is best to arrive before 11:00 am or after 3:00 pm to avoid the crowds.
- There is lots of free parking and employees of Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge will direct you to open parking spots. However, as parking fills up, you are directed lower and lower towards the ocean on gravel roads. Accordingly, you could have a long steep uphill walk along uneven ground to reach the ticket booth and entrance when it is busy.
- Entrance to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is by date and time stamped tickets. There are only a certain number issued per hour. Accordingly, you should pre-purchase your tickets online before you arrive to ensure that there are available tickets for the day and time that you want. If you do not, you can purchase tickets at the entrance. However, you run the risk of tickets being sold out, or having to wait before your allotted time becomes available.
- Tickets are £9.00 for adults, £4.50 for children (5 – 17 years old) and free for children under 5 years old, with family rates.
- There are bathrooms at the entrance, but nothing once you start the walk. There is a small restaurant and snack bar.
Physical fitness And health needed at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- The 1.6 km walk along the cliffs to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is mostly along an even path that undulates up and down. It is not a difficult walk but you do need to be in moderate physical health to do it.
- At the end of the walk, there is a steep descent that starts with large gradual steps, but ultimately end with a traditional staircase to reach the bridge. We had no problem walking down, but the return trip up was definitely a work out. There is no rush to do either, but you must be realistic about your physical health before beginning your descent to the bridge.
Suggested Clothing at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- You should wear running shoes or other comfortable flat shoes suitable for being active. I would avoid flip flops or anything with heels. In certain spots, it would be unsafe to wear them.
- Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket. You are totally exposed to the winds coming off of the ocean. Even on a beautiful sunny day, the weather can rapidly change.
Delays at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- There is only one way to cross to the island and that is on Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The rope bridge can only accommodate people going in one direction at a time. There is no room for people to pass each other.
- Employees of Carrick-A-Rede stand on either side of the rope bridge and control who crosses when. They normally allow one side to cross for extended periods of time, then allow the other side the same privilege. Accordingly, you may wait a long time to cross. We ended up waiting more than 30 minutes to cross back over to the mainland.
Fear of heights, safety and children at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- If you are afraid of heights, then I would avoid the rope bridge. You are literally walking over a narrow wooden platform with only rope on either side. You are swinging in the air, with an absolutely clear view of the ocean and rocks below. The rope totally surrounds you so that you can not fall, but it does nothing to block the view down below!
- Strollers are permitted along the path, but are not permitted on Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
- I would be very cautious about bringing young children over the rope bridge. I would not carry a child over the bridge. In addition, the island is simply an extension of the cliff WITHOUT any fencing. Personally, I would be a nervous wreck taking a small child there. However, there were families with young children there so it is allowed.
How much time did we spend at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge?
With our flat tire, we arrived to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge around 3:00 pm. We did not have time stamped tickets and had to purchase them upon our arrival. Luckily, there were some available with a timed entry for 30 minutes later. Thereafter, we spent around 2 hours walking along the cliffs, waiting for our turn to cross the bridge, and exploring the island. It was truly magical and we loved every minute. We didn’t feel rushed and spent as much time as we would have had we arrived earlier.
We left Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and drove 15 minutes to Giant’s Causeway. We arrived around 6:00 pm.
The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones from the shore that ultimately disappear into the North Atlantic Ocean. Most of the columns are hexagonal. However, there are also four, five, or seven sides. The tallest columns are about 39 ft (or 12 m) high. It was declared a World Unesco Heritage Site in 1986 and a national nature reserve in 1987.
There are several ways that you can appreciate the Giant’s Causeway. The easiest and fastest way is to simply walk from the Visitors Centre down the wide paved road to the ocean. Once you reach the bottom, you are free to roam and climb all over the columns as you please. I felt like I had stumbled upon an adult playground and loved climbing all over the rocks. In addition, the views over the columns to the sea were absolutely stunning.
However, there are other walks that start above the road and onto cliffs looking down over the Giant’s Causeway. These walks range in difficulty with one option being to purchase the Cliff Top Experience Walk, a guided 5 mile hike for $45 USD per person. However, the other options are less difficult, shorter, are unguided and free. Please click on this link for more information about all the different walks and hikes in and around the Giant’s Causeway.
Travel Tips, Concerns And Recommendations For Visiting Giants Causeway
Parking, tickets and facilities at Giant’s Causeway
- You do not need to purchase a ticket to visit Giant’s Causeway. Once you arrive, you can go down the 0.8 mi (or 1.2 km) paved road to see it or choose another of the longer hikes that start along the upper cliffs.
- However, you will need a ticket if you want to park near the entrance, explore the Visitor’s Centre, or use an audioguide. Tickets range from $14 USD for adults to $7.00 USD for children (5 – 17 years old).
- The Visitor’s Centre also has a restaurant and a store that is open to everyone. There are bathroom facilities here, but not below.
- The last admission to the Visitor’s Centre is one hour before closing. Closing time varies depending on the time of year.
- Since many people visit by tour bus from Belfast or Dublin, it is best to arrive before 10:00 am or after 4:00 pm in to avoid the crowds. Remember, unlike Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, there is no a limit to the number of people that can visit Giant’s Causeway.
Suggested Fitness and health at Giant’s Causeway
- The most direct route – the paved road down to the Giant’s Causeway- is wide, evenly paved and a beautiful walk with amazing views. However, it is steep in places. If you choose to walk down or up, you will need to have a good level of physical fitness.
- However, there is a shuttle bus that is available from the entrance or on your return, for an additional fee. It costs £1.00 for adults, £0.50 for children 5 years – 17 years, and free for children under 5 years old PER ONE WAY. Cash is only accepted.
Suggested Clothing at Giant’s Causeway
- You should wear running shoes or other comfortable flat shoes suitable for being active. I would avoid flip flops or anything with heels. Climbing the columns would be treacherous in unsafe footwear.
- Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket. You are totally exposed to the winds coming off of the ocean. Even on a beautiful sunny day, the weather can change rapidly.
Fear of heights, safety and children at Giant’s Causeway
- Strollers are welcome down the paved road to the ocean.
- There is fencing along the road for those children who choose to walk or run on their own.
- There is no one supervising guests at Giant’s Causeway. Accordingly, you are welcome to climb anywhere you wish. However, hard rock and slippery surfaces are everywhere. You need to be very careful if you choose to climb and explore, or your children do so.
- For any small child, I would remain at a constant arms length away from them while they are exploring the Giant’s Causeway.
- At the edge where the columns descend into the ocean, waves are crashing against them. If you choose to go to those columns, I would be very careful. It can be excessively slippery there.
How much time did we spend at Giant’s Causeway
We arrived close to 6:00 pm. The bad news was that we could no longer go into the Visitor’s Centre (new entry is not allowed an hour before it closes). The good news was that the main parking lot close to the entrance was half empty and we could park there even without purchasing a ticket.
We spent about 1 1/2 hours walking down the main road, climbing and exploring Giant’s Causeway and generally being overwhelmed by the absolutely stunning scenery. I would have loved to have gone on one of the hikes along the upper cliffs as opposed to dealing with our flat tire earlier, but that couldn’t be helped. If you are keen to explore the Visitor’s Centre or spend a little bit of time on one of the paths along the cliffs, I would allot around 3 hours for Giant’s Causeway. Otherwise, our 1 1/2 hours was the perfect amount of time there.
We absolutely loved our day trip from Belfast to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway. From Belfast, it was a very pleasant drive along country roads to reach both of these locations. Although I had originally set aside a whole day to explore both of these locations, we only ended up having four hours to experience both of these sites. Luckily, I felt totally satisfied with the amount of time that we had. Both Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway were absolutely stunning places to see. If you are keen to explore some of the most beautiful places in all of Ireland or Northern Ireland, I would make Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway a priority.
For more information and articles about our 10 day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, please see below.
- The Real Reason Why You Should Visit Dublin
- The Essential Guide To The Startling Beauty of Slieve League in Ireland
- Aran Islands and The Cliffs of Moher: How To Easily Explore Them In One Day
- Belfast City Break With Teens: An Action Packed Itinerary
- Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway: A Spectacular Day Trip
If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on the “Save” button on the photo below.