Spanning a chasm  some eighty feet deep is the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, it's construction once consisted of a single rope hand rail and widely spaced slats which the fishermen would traverse across with boxes of salmon caught off the island. This was one of several  seasonal salmon netting locations around the coast, others were at Kinbane, Portmoon and Black Rock. On the main road above Carrick a Rede you will see the old Ice House on the right hand side of the road as you climb up the hill, this is where ice gathered in winter would be stored and  used when the salmon were packed in barrels for shipment to Belfast.

 

The single handrail bridge was replaced with two  hand rails attached to the lower ropes and planking by ropes spaced  a metre apart. The current 'caged' bridge was installed by the National Trust during Easter of 2000  to meet new regulations regarding  health and safety.  Today it is impossible to fall off the bridge unless you climb over the rails, though it is still an exhilarating walk across.  No-one has ever been injured falling off the old bridge, there have been many instances of visitors being unable to face the return walk back across the bridge, resulting in them being taken off the island by boat. A collection of old photographs in Sheep Island View Hostel shows a local man doing various stunts on the bridge which include riding a bicycle across it and performing handstands on a chair in the middle.

 

To preserve the depleting salmon stocks a buy out of commercial nets around the coast  took place in 2001, today the bridge is no longer seasonal for fishermen but marketed as a tourist attraction with a charge to cross it. The heritage of that time is being preserved on the island by the National Trust who have renovated the small bothy and have a replica drontheim boat on site.  The area is exceptional in is natural beauty, to the left as you come down the steep hill is Larrybane headland which once stretched out towards Sheep Island and had a promontory fort on the top dating to 800AD, underneath are large caves which once served as home to boat builders and a safe resting place from winter storms.

 

During the 1950's blasting, quarrying and shipping of limestone removed most of Larrybane Head, it is well worth a walk down to the old quarry area as some incredible views can be enjoyed from here. It is also wonderful to see nature and wildlife reclaiming the old site, orchids and butterflies are plentiful in summertime.

 

Protected by Sheep Island and a shallow reef, the bay of Larrybane is one of the most sheltered locations along the north coast  but on  22nd October 1906, the steam powered trawler 'City of Bristol' on its way back to Fleetwood from the Icelandic fishing grounds rounded Sheep Island and hit the reef between the Island and Larrybane - it later slipped off and settled on the sandy bottom in 20 metres of water - local stories still tell of the Captain mistaking the island for Bull Point on Rathlin Island. The ship was built in 1903, it is 35 metres long and weighed in at 220 tons.  If you are adventurous and would like to see some rare local calcite pillares, then  walk, difficult in places, along the base of the cliffs towards the rope bridge. The small  is located slightly up from the shore, with the entrance formed from calcite pillars and inside a damp micro climate with ferns.  - situated mid way along the boulder strewn shoreline that so inspired the famous reclusive artist Larry Bane himself.

 

Summer adventurer's to the spot should be aware that the well trod pathway to the rope bridge skirts the cliffs above you where the daily passage of visitors takes place to the rope bridge. This can and does results in the odd can or stone being dispatched from time to time by unaware hands. So be careful.

 

A precarious cliff path once took you down the face of the cliff , a wooden ladder made by local men  stretched the last four metres to the shore . It was used by local people to bypass the quarry workings and access Larrybane for  fishing and beachcombing. I remember once as wee lad with my uncle, finding a  bouy that had a listening device and aerial attached that had washed ashore, these were dropped from helicopters or planes and used to monitor submarines during the Cold War.