Gobbins will need 70,000 visitors a year to break even

The tubular bridge at the Gobbins as it appeared in the early 1900s. INLT 02-802-CON
The tubular bridge at the Gobbins as it appeared in the early 1900s. INLT 02-802-CON

The Gobbins Cliff Path attraction will have the capacity to cater for 34 tours a day during the high season, it has been claimed.

Larne Borough Council has revealed its proposed opening hours for the project, and is recommending that the path be open from 10am to 9.30pm during peak summer months.

From Easter (mid April) until May, it is proposed that the path be open from 10am to 7.30pm, which would allow 11 tours a day.

And in the low season (mid October to mid April), the local authority is recommending that tours take place from 10am to 4pm, with about eight tours each day.

There are a number of restrictions as to the number of visitors that can go through at any one time, including the physical capacity of the path, how many hours a guide can work, weather and light conditions and the transport system.

It is estimated that each tour will last just over an hour, including the time it takes for the mini bus to travel between the visitors centre and the path.

The council has also revealed that the Gobbins must attract at least 70,000 visitors a year (after year three) in order for the project to break even.

At the latest meeting of the Gobbins steering group, the tourism manager advised that 15 visitors per tour – which is the maximum mini bus capacity – would allow 97,230 visitors a year. This would result in visitors fees of about £600,000.

However, minutes of the meeting state: “It is unlikely every tour will be filled every day, based on a capacity of 75 per cent being filled, the number comes down to 72,922.”

In terms of pricing, provisional rates are £8.50 for adults, £6 concessions for under 16s, senior citizens and students, and no charge for under fives. It is proposed that family passes will be about £22/£23.

Registered carers would be free, and groups of ten or more would receive a 10 per cent discount.

A capacity of 75 per cent would bring in revenue of £480,000, not taking into account revenue from the cafe, retail or community centre income.

According to the minutes, there would be a deficit in the budget of £95,780 for the first year of the project.

Chief executive of Larne Council, Geraldine McGahey said she would like to see the Gobbins opened and opeartional by the end of March, 2015.

Gobbins cliff path construction is being undertaken by McLaughlin & Harvey, whose credits include refurbishment of the Thompson Dry Dock in the Titanic Qurter. Tracey Bros, who completed restoration of Larne’s McGarel Town Hall, and restored the SS Nomadic, are building the visitor centre.

The Gobbins Cliff Path was built in 1902 and in its heyday attracted more visitors than the Giant’s Causeway.

The three-quarter-mile path was linked by a series of spectacular metal bridges which were incredible feats of engineering, but the attraction fell into disrepair and was closed to the public in 1954.

Larne Council has allocated £2 million to the restoration scheme, and a further £200,000 of funding has come from Ulster Garden Villages Ltd.

The initiative also aims to develop links between the Gobbins and Sliabh Liag in Donegal, and has received about £3.5 million of European funding.