5 minutes with...Ciara McClements

Ciara McClements at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge site

Ciara McClements, who has been the Site Manager at Carrick-a-Rede for almost five years, has just been appointed the new Visitor Experience Manager for the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede.

How did you come to work for the National Trust?

I worked as a retail manager for 16 years, but I knew I wanted a new challenge and to work for a charity where I could give something back. It was just a coincidence that a job for Site Manager at the National Trust came up… I went for it and never looked back.

I have been with the National Trust for nearly 5 years now and have just been appointed Visitor Experience Manager for the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede.

It has been amazing to see how both sites have developed over the years. I can’t believe that our visitor numbers have almost doubled since I started. It has been a pleasure to witness and to be a part of all the changes that have come with it.

Give us a brief insight into your typical day at Carrick-a-Rede?

Every day is different, and every season is different!

My job involves a lot of work behind the scenes – from staff budgets, to visitor budgets, looking at how we can move the site forward with the increase in visitor numbers and overseeing the health and safety of all our visitors as well as our staff.

But if I’m being totally honest, my team do a lot of the hard work. They really are brilliant at what they do, and they make sure that the site is run so well. They are very committed and passionate about this special place and we all work together, especially during the busy times - it’s a real team effort.

What’s the best thing about working at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge?

I love welcoming a fantastic mix of different visitors to the site and the rope bridge has become one of those iconic places on people’s bucket list. Lots of visitors see it as an adventure and a challenge. It’s something that many people are a bit afraid to do, but if they are determined to complete it then we are with them each step of the way! The best thing is watching those with a fear of heights conquering their fears and crossing the rope bridge – it’s no mean feat and it is amazing to see people so proud of themselves when they tackle the challenge.

Tell us one interesting fact we may not have known about the rope bridge?

We had stunt cyclist Andrea Burton visit us a few years ago - he rode a BMX stunt bike across the bridge…and did a wheelie in the middle. It’s safe to say my heart was in my mouth the whole time watching him!

It was part of the Giro D’Italia, when it came to Northern Ireland in 2014. It was such an exciting time for all of us at Carrick-a-Rede. We even turned the bridge pink in celebration!

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in pink for the Giro D'Italia in 2014
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in pink for the Giro D'Italia in 2014
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in pink for the Giro D'Italia in 2014

Are you currently working on any exciting projects?

We’re currently working on an exciting new project to introduce an online booking system at Carrick-a-Rede....more news to come soon! I'm also helping out with ‘The Lil' Divas Community Project’ which gives a group of local school girls (aged 11- 18) the opportunity to meet local influencers, local entrepreneurs and some of our tour guides and retail team members. We’re trying to empower young women and girls to consider different career paths and help open their eyes to the many options they have for their future.

Members of the Lil' Divas Community Project at a fundraising fashion show in Bushmills which the girls helped organise and run
Members of the Lil' Divas Community Group on stage at a fashion show
Members of the Lil' Divas Community Project at a fundraising fashion show in Bushmills which the girls helped organise and run

Another is the Octavia Hill project. She was of course one of the founders of the National Trust and her influence in social housing, social enterprise and social development is all around us! I'm helping with an area in Bushmills that will be dedicated to Octavia Hill, and artwork by the young people of Bushmills will form part of the project.

Why do you think the work of the NT is important?

We’re really lucky here at the North Coast because we have two sites that attract people from all over the world. The income from paying visitors goes straight back into looking after these special places we live in. The National Trust follows the ethos of Octavia Hill - that these places are forever and for everyone and it is so important that we do something to protect them for generations to come.

I am a huge supporter of the work we do, and I’m inspired by the work of Octavia Hill as the person who developed social work as we know it today. From a woman in business point of view I think the work of Octavia Hill is still evident in today’s society.

What does the NT mean to you?

The ethos of the National Trust and its role in protecting the special places in our communities is very important to me. Octavia once said, “We all need space, unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers better things to come to us” - I think that sums up what the National Trust offers local communities. Space is something we all look for in life, and to have these special places right on our doorstep is a blessing. I know from talking to visitors what the National Trust sites mean to people and it’s important that we keep them special for generations to come!

Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, was a revolutionary social entrepreneur
Octavia Hill quote
Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, was a revolutionary social entrepreneur