Northern Ireland

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge reopens following vandalism

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Image caption The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge has become very popular with daredevil tourists with a head for heights

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, one of Northern Ireland's best known tourist attractions, has reopened after being vandalised.

It was closed on Wednesday after vandals tried to cut through its ropes.

The bridge, suspended almost 100ft (30m) above sea level, connects two cliffs off Ballintoy, County Antrim.

The National Trust, which operates the site, described the vandalism as "mindless" and said it could have had "very dangerous consequences".

Hundreds of visitors were turned away on Wednesday as safety inspections were carried out.

Police said a hand rope and supporting ropes had been cut and they are investigating the incident as "criminal damage".

Out of action

"We're thankful to get the engineers up on site so promptly this afternoon and work through the process of getting it repaired," Frank Devlin of the National Trust told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra on Wednesday.

"Tourism is such an important part of the economy here in Northern Ireland. The potential for the bridge to have been out of action for much longer was very high."

Image caption The bridge is 18 inches wide and can only accommodate eight people at one time

Earlier, Mr Devlin said "At some stage last night, someone cut one of the ropes on the bridge.

"It's not cut the whole way through, but it's cut significantly that we have had to close the bridge today and we can't allow anyone to cross."

'Very disappointed'

He added: "Thankfully, due to the vigilance of our staff at the site this morning, we picked up the damage before anyone had access to the bridge."

Image caption The rope strand has not been cut right through, but the ropes are under huge strain to support the bridge and any damage is a serious safety risk
Image caption There are concerns that the whole bridge may have to be replaced because of the vandalism

A rope bridge was first erected on the site by fishermen in 1755.

In more recent years, it has become a very popular crossing point for daredevil tourists with a head for heights.

'Padlock removed'

Last year, the National Trust recorded its highest ever number of visitors to the attraction.

It led to the trust introducing "timed tickets" to deal with the crowds waiting to cross the bridge.

Image caption Structural engineers are assessing the level of damage to the bridge

PSNI Insp Colin Reeves said: "Sometime between 6.30pm on Tuesday 23 May and 9.30am on Wednesday 24 May, a padlock on the gate which leads to the bridge was removed.

"The hand rope on the right hand side of the rope bridge and supporting ropes at the side of the bridge were partially cut."

He appealed for witnesses to contact police.

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