Progress on the multi-million pounds Gobbins restoration project has been welcomed by Larne Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mark McKinty.
The Ulster Unionist representative gained a new perspective on the stunning cliff path recently, when he travelled by boat see the scope of the £6 million regeneration scheme from sea.
And he spoke of his excitement that the attraction would soon receive “international recognition”.
As previously reported in the Times, Larne Borough Council is planning to restore the historic coastal path – which has been closed for over half a century – to its former glory.
The local authority is close to awarding the contract for the project. Work on a new visitors centre will start this summer and construction on the cliff face path will begin in September.
It is hoped both will be completed and open to visitors by May 2014.
Cllr McKinty said:“We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful borough, and to have a feature such as the Gobbins on our doorstep.
“It has been one of Northern Ireland’s best-kept secrets for a long time.”
He added that the project would have a “fantastic knock-on effect” on the local economy.
“The visitors centre will also house a new community facility. The tours, cafe, gift shop and shuttle bus will provide local employment in addition to providing a platform for crafts from the local area,” he added.
“I am excited about the potential for this scheme - the Gobbins restoration will put Larne on the world map. However, I am also glad that the local community is a key part of the restoration project, and that the long-term benefit will ultimately lie with the people of Islandmagee and the wider Larne and east Antrim area.”
The Gobbins Cliff Path was built by civil engineer Berkeley Deane Wise in 1902, and featured staircases along the cliffs, dramatic tubular and suspension bridges and caves and tunnels carved through the rock.
In its heyday it was one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island of Ireland and attracted more visitors than the Giants Causeway. It eventually fell into disrepair and was closed about 60 years ago.
The restoration scheme will see the reconstruction of the half-mile path, the creation of a new cliff-top path, and a new stainless steel staircase to link the two together.
There will be a total of 15 bridges, including a 25m suspension bridge and a tubular bridge.