Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has announced that the internationally-unique coastal path at The Gobbins will re-open at the end of June, just in time for peak visitor season.
The Gobbins closed unexpectedly last year, when extreme weather conditions caused higher levels of rock fall along the path. Council brought forward its programme of planned maintenance in the interests of visitor and staff safety, which it says are paramount.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE outlined what has been happening in Islandmagee over recent months: “We were very disappointed last year to miss our first peak season due to the unavoidable closure. Our visitor figures had already well exceeded our targets for the period and our feedback worldwide had been, and continues to be, extremely positive.
“The Gobbins is an outstanding natural and sometimes unpredictable attraction and the only guided adventure walk of its kind in Europe. Over recent months we have been working to dislodge loose rock through scaling and the majority of that work is complete. We have been looking at options for the areas around the ends of the bridges, to ensure that they aren’t damaged during the scaling process and we will now move to complete that element of the maintenance work.
“Council had budgeted around £2 million for its maintenance work, which included work to restore the access path following Storm Frank in 2015. We have spent about a quarter of that budget to date, so this next phase to get The Gobbins open represents a significant investment in growing the local economy in Mid and East Antrim through the creation of sustainable jobs and tourism. Mid and East Antrim has a fantastic range of tourist attractions, from Carrickfergus Castle to Slemish mountain and we have been committed, together with our partners in Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland, to promoting all our assets on a world stage.
“The Gobbins is so special within Europe. It sits with in an Area of Special Scientific Interest on account of its wildlife and habitats. It is one of the only mainland sites in Ireland where puffins nest and as such we will always be restricted by the bird nesting season. We will be unable to open a small section at the end of the 2km path in time for June because of the environmental sensitivities within this area and the associated Planning restrictions, but we will work on those areas during the off-peak season later in the year. Seasonal opening will be a feature of The Gobbins going forward and will be necessary in order for Council to carry out its annual cliff maintenance work off-peak.
“We’re very excited to have a re-opening date confirmed. Booking lines will be open again early in May and we look forward to bringing people back to The Gobbins and to Mid and East Antrim for an exhilarating and exciting raw experience with nature” she said.