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Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Larrybane Quarry, Knocksoughey

Carrick-A-Rede' Rope Bridge is best visited by walking from the car park at Larrybane Quarry. Here the trust operates a small tearoom and interpretative centre occupying the former offices of the Quarry Company that worked the headland extensively from the 1930's until 1979. Sadly this industry and the quarrying operations of the late 19 th Century have reduced the headland by as much as half and today we can only guess at how splendidly impressive LARRYBANE HEAD was. How imposing the fort here must have looked in 800AD when it was intact and inhabited. However, despite the virtual destruction of the head and the complete removal of the fort in the 1930's, the area is nevertheless, - a stunning stretch of coastline!

Standing in the carpark, your gaze is relentlessly drawn to the remains of the limekiln and upward to the Dolerite/Basalt Quarry cliff face of KNOCKSOUGHEY sill. These 82 acres of land adjacent to Larrybane are the site of the former Brockie Quarry. From here rock was transported throughout the world and, if you are enterprising enough, can be found in Scotland where it was used as paving material on the streets of Glasgow.

At the westerly side of the carpark lies the entrance to the great 'amphitheatre' of the white limestone quarry. Although most of the quarry plant has been demolished pieces remain, the limekiln, an old limestone crusher and some winding gear on the islets offshore remind us of mans industrial heritage. In this great arena you can easily loose yourself in the past as the stillness now, starkly contrasts the rumble and thunder; the endless drilling and blasting that scared forever, this once mighty headland. GO ON - revisit the madness of your youth - scream or shout or roar and listen as the flint speckled white cliffs answer you back.

Since 1967, when the Trust first started to acquire lands here, nature has indeed returned to reclaim her own. The wildlife of the chalk area stands interesting comparison with that on the areas of basalt/dolerite above, swifts and a large colony of House martins nest in the former quarry holes and ledges. Other birds to spot in the general area are the Eider duck,

the Fulmar with its distinctive gliding flight; the black wing tipped Kittiwake, the Guillemot and the Razorbill. This abundance of wildlife in addition to the geology, flora and fauna on these islands and cliffs enable this NATIONAL TRUST property to be officially recognised as an Area of Special Scientific Interest.

The beach shown right is at Larrybane Bay is mainly limestone pebbles and boulders but at the base of the cliff there are several caves to explore, one in particular has fine examples of stalactites and stalagmites together with a limestone pillar that seems to support the whole headland. We recommend that extreme care be used if you choose to visit these areas.

Here at the edge of the waters of Moyle you may wonder about the history and folklore of Sheep Island as it stands perpendicular, proud and erect in the bay before you. This volcanic lump of rock with it's grassy thatch is recognised as a breeding ground for Cormorants, Shags and other sea birds, indeed prior to the 1960's it was also known as 'Puffin Island' such were the numbers of this comical looking bird living on the island. Unfortunately due to rat infestation the birds died out and only small numbers breed on the mainland cliffs opposite. According to local wisdom, the grassy thatch will 'fatten ten, feed eleven and starve twelve' when related to the number of sheep grazed there many years ago. The climb back up from the shore affords the best explanation of the name Larrybane - meaning the 'Ancient white site'- and to why this site was chosen for an ancient promontory fortification. We have good reason indeed to be thankful to the artist Paul Henry for preserving, in one of his best-known paintings, this magnificent headland.

East of the carpark and after a 1km walk along part of the North Antrim cliff path, you come to 'the rock in the road' - the translation of the Irish Gaelic name 'Carrick-a-Rede'. Here the infamous ' Rope Bridge ' links the mainland to the island that is the 'rock' in the sea migration route for salmon returning from the north Atlantic . As the salmon swim relentlessly Westward to the freshwater spawning grounds of the rivers Bush and Bann they are trapped in the bag part of the net set here. In season - from mid May until September - a viewpoint on the cliff edge, east of the bridge, gives an excellent view of this early 19 th Century Scottish bag net system. You may even be lucky enough to see the fishermen lift the bag end into a boat for emptying as this is done at least once a day, Monday to Friday. There has been a bridge here for more than 250 years and despite a precarious 20m walk some 30m above the waters there are few reported accidents - unless of course you are a dog which, according to a 19 th Century account, were frequently blown off.

The rock here is solidified ash and the whole area the remains of an explosive volcano. The grassy slopes and rocky outcrops support a thriving mixed sea bird colony and are awash with colourful spring and early summer wildflowers. The trappings of the fishing industry abound, ropes, nets, buoys even a little fisheries bothy and as you walk around you may discover an ancient wooden boat or nearby a creaking boat launching windlass. In season or out of season what is always present is the inescapable whiff of tar, fish and the fresh sea air. Enjoy it here in a way - the like of which - you will experience it nowhere else on earth.