Work has commenced at The Gobbins, where a reconstructed cliff path and a new visitor centre are scheduled to open next summer.
On Thursday past Larne mayor, Cllr Maureen Morrow, cut the first sod at the Islandmagee beauty spot which the council hopes will become an internationally recognised attraction, bringing in 50,000 tourists a year.
Representatives from key funders the Special European Union’s Programmes Body (SEUPB) and Ulster Garden Villages attended the ceremony, at which Cllr Morrow said: “We are truly on the way to fulfilling the long-held vision of Larne Borough Council to reinstate this outstanding heritage feature of our coastline. Today marks the beginning of a carefully planned programme of works that will take us through to the completion of our visitor centre/community centre in July next year, with the cliff path opening the following month”.
The Gobbins cliff path, which was built in 1902 and in its heyday attracted more visitors than the Giant’s Causeway, is to be reinstated at a cost of £6 million, with over half the funding coming through the EU’s INTERREG IVA programme, managed by the SEUPB and administered by the North East Partnership. Larne Borough Council provided £2 million, with further funding of £200,000 from Ulster Garden Villages.
Meanwhile, a new visitor centre at Bunglass/Sliabh Liag in Donegal, will also receive funding under the cross-border EU initiative. With the highest sea cliffs in Europe, Sliabh Liag already has 120,000 visitors annually.
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 recently completed restoration of the McGarel Town Hall, and resored the SS Nomadic, are building the visitor centre.
Both contracts offer engineering and construction apprenticeships, along with opportunities targeted at people not in work.”