The Gobbins, Islandmagee, had been the most popular local tourist attraction in its day 100 years ago, and now with its reimagining, the buzz around the reopening has been incredible.
Arriving at the Gobbins Visitor Centre for our tour we met in the briefing room, watched the video, got our helmets fitted, and boarded the bus to go Gobbins walking for just over 2 and a half hours.
A short journey later and we were dropped off at the roadside to begin the descent of a very steep hill, knowing full well that the return walk up the hill was going to be a killer. (It was!)
We reached the shoreline, turned left and were soon at the famous Gobbins entrance.
What followed was an awesome cliff face white knuckle walk along the 100 year old tracks carved into the dramatic Antrim coastline. They were first enjoyed in 1902 by the Edwardians following its original development by visionary Berkeley Deane Wise, Chief Engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company.
The walk has been refurbished with new railings and bridges in a £7.5 million investment by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The project has taken a few years to complete, and it’s easy to see why, the working conditions certainly wouldn’t have been ideal with a very narrow walkway, cliffs on one side and the Irish Sea (or is it the North Channel?) on the other. It’s not the most accessible of projects to work on. I liked that the original railings and bridges haven’t been completely removed; the developers have left evidence of these along the route.
If you like a touch of adventure, this is the one for you. As the very narrow paths hug the cliff face, you’ll cross suspension tubular bridges over crashing waves, you’ll enjoy being closer to local wildlife and appreciating a place of stunning, awesome beauty. You’ll even get up close and personal with the only mainland colony of Puffins in Northern Ireland and you’ll spot a few kittiwakes in residence on the cliff (the whiff gives their location away!)
It’s great to welcome back The Gobbins to the NI tourist trail, but one thing is for sure, you need to have a reasonable level of fitness, not be too scared of heights and enclosed spaces, and not have any injuries. You also need to dress appropriately including trainers or walking shoes/boots, and bring a bottle of water. The route follows narrow tracks along the cliff face and you’ll be squeezing through dark damp tunnels and caves, walking up and down hundreds of steps cut into the cliff which might be wet. Oh and it might rain!! Be prepared!
60 years after officially closing to the public, it’s exciting to see this attraction open again. Definitely get up to Islandmagee and try it out and when you’re done you’ll deserve a delicious ice cream from the shop just down the road from the visitor centre.
Booking is essential as it’s proving a very popular attraction. More info is available at www.thegobbinscliffpath.com
Tours depart on the hour from 10am until 3pm. Tickets cost £8.50 per person and £23 for family tickets.