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Can You Cross the Bridge?

Agosto 2008
Il ponte di corda di Carrick-a-rede è una delle attrazioni turistiche principali dell’Irlanda del Nord. Situato nell’omonimo tratto di costa nella contea di Antrim, è un ponte sospeso che collega Carrick Island alla terraferma.

di Kathleen Becker

File audio:

Carrick a rede bridge
Carrick a rede bridge
B. Stirling and colleagues
B. Stirling and colleagues

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent):

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:

Billy Stirling (Northern Irish accent):

We have a few photographs of the early bridge. It was a lot less bridge than there is today. The original bridge only had one handrope; there was no sides on it. I’m sure in those days, when the fishermen were carrying their fish back across the bridge, that was a precarious crossing, I would have thought, yeah.


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

Billy Stirling:

I think 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:

Billy Stirling:

We had a lady one day asked me what height the bridge was above sea level. I told her it was about 80 feet. She looked down at the rocks below and she said: “Would that be a problem, if you fell off?” So, in true Irish tradition, I assured her that the first 79 feet, would not be a problem, but she could have a problem after that!

For more information on the bridge, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The nearest village is Ballintoy: www.northantrim.com/ballintoy.htm. Outside the village, between the Rope Bridge and the Giant’s Causeway, Whitepark Bay House (www.whiteparkhouse.com) won the prestigious Georgina Campbell’s Guesthouse of the Year 2008 award. Enjoy owner Bob’s hospitality and Ulster Fry breakfast. The nearest major city is Belfast. There are buses from Belfast
to the nearest town, Ballycastle, but it is easier to hire a car. For more information: www.discovernorthernireland.com.

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fishery - zona di pesca.

unreliable - inaffidabile.

to sling a rope bridge - gettare un ponte di corda.

spanning - che si estende.

retired engineer - ingegnere in pensione.

National Trust - Ente nazionale che si occupa della tutela dei beni culturali e ambientali.

handrope - corrimano (di corda).

a lot sturdier - molto più robusto.

hopping up and down to make it wobble - saltare su e giù per farlo traballare.

make it across - ce la fanno ad arrivare.

to coax visitors across - per indurre i turisti ad attraversare.

jokes - battute.

height - altezza.

80 feet - 24 metri circa.