After a week spent in the warm spring sunshine of Madrid hanging out with friends, I had a week and a half before I needed to be in London so figured that was a perfect length of time to visit two countries that are situated conveniently right in between Spain and England: Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Sure, some of you might say - but Jana, Northern Ireland is part of the UK - and you'd be right. But if you take a peek at my list of how many countries there are in the world, you'll see I've included about 80 territories that aren't countries, and I've also broken down the UK into Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, each worthy of their own travels and their own spots on my list.
So, I flew direct from Madrid to Dublin and was greeted with sunshine. On my first day, I was surprised, because sun is rare on this island. Well, turns out I ended up with dry weather almost every single day of my trip, barring one day in Belfast and a few hours on the Cliffs of Moher on Ireland's west coast. Not sure how I got so lucky during my eleven days here but I feel grateful for it.
How to Get from Dublin or Belfast to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
From Dublin Airport, I took a direct easy bus straight north over the border into Northern Ireland and spent a night at the Global Village hostel in Belfast.
The next morning, I caught a 1.5-hour train from Belfast Botanica to Coleraine, the main transport hub on the north coast. From there, the 402 bus runs frequently all the way along the Northern Irish coast, stopping at all the towns, viewpoints and tourist attractions along the way, including castles, hiking trails and the Giant's Causeway - as well as the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Where to Stay on the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland
For the Causeway Coast, I can highly recommend the Whitepark Bay Youth Hostel. The wifi is weak and the hostel itself is a bit cold and uninviting, but WOW is the location incredible and the view from the hostel is absolutely the best I've ever had. It's right on the 402 bus line and sits over Whitepark Bay which, on a sunny day, offers the most spectacular sight across the coast and towards Scotland and the North Atlantic Ocean.
Visiting the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The 402 bus also goes directly to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge; there's also plenty of parking. You need to book in advance if you want tickets to cross the bridge but if you're okay with just walking along the coastway (about 3km return) and spotting the bridge from afar, then that's completely free - and in my opinion that's more than enough. I met a French-Canadian girl in my hostel dorm room and we went together and got super lucky and scored last minute tickets when we arrived, but don't count on that!
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a rope bridge stretching across the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island where an old fisherman's cottage sits, constantly battered by the wind and the rain. The original rope bridge was built over 250 years ago for fisherman and nowadays a restored (and much safer) version is a world famous tourist attraction. The entire coastline walk is simply exquisite.