Tubular bridge is hoisted into place at Gobbins

The tubular bridge section of the Gobbins cliff path is lowered into place.  INLT 44-676-CON

The tubular bridge section of the Gobbins cliff path is lowered into place. INLT 44-676-CON

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The iconic tubular bridge section of the Gobbins cliff path has been installed as the restoration of the Islandmagee attraction nears completion.

The cliff path, which was originally 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.

The installation of the tubular bridge, which was one of the most famous aspects of the original path, marks an important milestone in the project.

When the path is completed, there will be a total of 18 bridges, including a 25m suspension bridge.

Mayor of Larne Borough Council, Martin Wilson said: “We are delighted to see this outstanding heritage feature of our coastline being reinstated and nearing completion and would like to thank all our funders: Larne Borough Council, the Special European Union’s Programmes Body (SEUPB) and Ulster Garden Villages.

“This remains a technically challenging project, not only in terms of the engineering expertise but working on a cliff face location, often in difficult weather, and taking account of the special environmental considerations surrounding the puffin breeding sites.

“We look forward to welcoming our first visitors in the New Year, an unavoidable delay of six months due to the unforeseen difficulties, however we are pleased these have been overcome and the wait has been well worthwhile.”

Welcoming the progress being made with the project, Lorraine McCourt, director with SEUPB said: “It is very exciting to see the final pieces of infrastructure being brought into place for the restoration of the Gobbins cliff path.

“The SEUPB’s €5 million support of this project, in addition to the €2.5 million support of the All-Island Lighthouse Trail to provide tourism accommodation in lighthouses across the north coast and Donegal and the €6.2 million funding of Sail West, a marine tourism initiative linking the North West of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Western Scotland, is a clear illustration of the INTERREG Programme’s focus on cross-border co-operation which aims to stimulate the tourism potential and economic benefits for what have been previously seen as peripheral areas.

“The Gobbins cliff path reconstruction has been undertaken by McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd.

John Glass, director with McLaughlin and Harvey, added: “The path will be an excellent tourist attraction for Northern Ireland. McLaughlin and Harvey are both proud and excited to be playing a key role in restoring such an iconic structure back into use.”

It is hoped the attraction will open to the public around the end of February/start of March 2015. The Visitor Centre, which has been completed, includes a café, interpretation/exhibition space, pre-tour rooms, outlet for branded memorabilia and local crafts, as well as a tourist information point.