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Northern Ireland

Can you Cross the Bridge?

For centuries there was a salmon fishery on the tiny island of Carrick-a-rede. In order to collect the salmon, a boat had to come in from the nearby town of Ballintoy. This made the whole operation time-consuming and unreliable. So, in the mid-eighteenth century, local salmon fishers decided to sling a rope bridge over to the island. Today the bridge, spanning some 18 metres, about 24 metres above sea level, is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. Billy Stirling is a retired engineer who works here as a National Trust warden. As he explains, the original versions of the bridge were very different to the one we see today.

The original bridge only had one handrope; there was no sides on it.

Today’s is a lot sturdier. So why are people still so nervous about crossing the bridge?

Billy Stirling think thath it’s the fear factor. Many people come here with a fear factor in their mind, before they get to the bridge. They have seen pictures, seen films and so on. It does look quite intimidating.

Only eight people are allowed on the bridge at a time. Yet at least one of them will insist on hopping up and down to make it wobble. Some visitors make it across to the island, but then can’t face the return journey. Billy has developed a special technique to coax visitors across. He tries to distract them with questions and jokes. He might tell them to look at his face instead of looking down.

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