The newly-reinstated Gobbins cliff path is proving to be a big hit with visitors, topping Tourism NI’s chart of things to do in Northern Ireland.
The Islandmagee attraction, which gives unequalled access to stunning coastal views, shot into the Top 10 just days after its grand opening.
After years of anticipation, eager thrill-seekers finally have the chance to uncover the once-hidden wonder of the Antrim coast and indulge in an exhilarating cliff path walk.
The long-awaited opening of the facility on Wednesday, August 19, marked the first time visitors had officially set foot on the historic path for more than half a century.
The level of interest was not hard to gauge on opening day, with phone lines jammed as council staff were inundated with hundreds of booking queries.
The Gobbins was originally installed in 1902 by railway engineer Berkeley Dean Wise as a series of spectacular bridges and gantries, .
After relishing five decades as Northern Ireland’s top tourism attraction, even exceeding the popularity of the Giant’s Causeway in its heyday, the path fell into disrepair and closed to the public in 1954.
But the unique site has been reinstated at a cost of £7.5m, with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council providing more than half of the funding for the scheme.
And with its breathtaking views, exhilarating walkways and fascinating wildlife; the Gobbins really lives up to its billing as a “dramatic coastal experience”.
Tourism NI has described the experience as “one of Northern Ireland’s most exhilarating attractions”.
And the reaction from the first batch of visitors has been similarly positive.
Whitehead man David Hope, who took part in the first tour said: “I was really looking forward to seeing the new path opened and delighted that it has been restored.
“I am from the local area, so I have known about the Gobbins for a very long time and its connection to the railways.
“Until you undertake the walk, you can’t appreciate the phenomenal feat of engineering it has been and was back in 1902.
“I highly recommend it to anyone. It was an amazing experience, one I have waited 50 years to do and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I will be back.”
It is predicted that up to 50,000 people from across the globe will flock to Islandmagee each year to experience the Gobbins for themselves.
Comprising of suspension tubular bridges, caves, steps, and tunnels carved through the spectacular rock face, Mid and East Antrim Council’s reimagined treasure has brought what was once a thriving 1900s hotspot into the 21st century.
Along the trail, visitors will not only enjoy spectacular views of the natural landscape here but getup close to a diverse range of wildlife and gain privileged access to Northern Ireland’s only mainland colony of Puffins alongside various other bird species.
While the Gobbins has preserved its original charm to offer the same spellbinding appeal that it did in its prime, new additions bring it into the modern day, including a stateoftheart Visitor Centre with a café, an interpretation/exhibition space, pretour rooms, a shop for branded memorabilia and local crafts, as well as a Tourist Information point.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Billy Ashe said: “This is a very exciting time for the Mid and East Antrim Borough, the local community of Islandmagee and for the people of Northern Ireland.
“We have brought back an exhilarating experience that reinforces the strength of Northern Ireland’s tourism offering and in no time the Gobbins will become the respected tourism giant it once was all those years back.
“It is with great pride and excitement that we open the doors of the Gobbins and share its majestic story with a new generation.
“There has always been a huge interest in the attraction even long after it closed and today that interest has been heightened dramatically.
“The demand to experience what is a truly amazing jewel in the Antrim Coastal crown has stretched beyond Northern Ireland as far afield as Australia.
“Bookings are coming in fast and the demand has been simply phenomenal. I have no doubt that the enthusiasm for The Gobbins will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future.”
To book a tour of the path, phone 028 9337 2318 where staff at the Visitors Centre are ready to welcome enquiries. Tickets must be pre-booked.
Tours start on the hour from 10am, with the last tour taking place at 3pm.
The tour is priced at £8.50 for adults, and £6 for seniors and children. A family ticket (two adults and three children) costs £23, while registered carers have access for free.
The walk is not for young children, so anyone under 1.2m in height will not be admitted.
The Gobbins is a strenuous outdoor experience, with Mid and East Antrim Council advising that a “moderate level of fitness is required”.
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.thegobbinscliffpath.com