Climbers scale Gobbins cliff to clear hazards
It's certainly not a job for the faint-hearted - and you'd need a good head for heights. These specialist climbers have been using crowbars to force loose rocks from the cliffs overlooking the landmark Gobbins pathway near Larne.
Mid and East Antrim Council sanctioned a full 'scaling' of the cliff-face walk, which has been closed more often than open during its first year of operation.
The scaling operation - as our exclusive pictures show - involves forcing any loose rocks and debris to fall, rather than waiting for it to dislodge naturally.
The after-effects of storms and rock falls have led to the picturesque tourist attraction having to be shut down for two peak periods - Easter and its first full summer.
And now it has been confirmed that the new cliff face walkway will not be open for its first anniversary early next month.
Tourism NI chiefs, however, have made clear they believe everything possible is being done to get the Gobbins back on track as soon as possible. Chief executive John McGrillen said: "We fully respect and support Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's position in relation to The Gobbins and will do all that we can to assist the council.
"This significant and strategically important natural tourism attraction has been well received since its initial opening and has demonstrated that it is a definite draw for the international visitor.
"While we appreciate the current challenges are frustrating to those keen to visit The Gobbins, I would assure those coming to Northern Ireland that all are working as diligently as possible towards a re-opening date."
The painstaking operation, which has kept the Gobbins closed since June, came after it was revealed recent weather has had a worse impact on rock movement in the area than expected.
Specialists have had to be brought in to carry out the complex and time-consuming work.
"Essential maintenance continues, with the cliff face having to be scaled in many places." mayor Audrey Wales told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We need to protect the natural environment, the scenery and the habitat of wildlife.
"Safety and biodiversity of the area remain the council's reasons for closure and we look forward to moving ahead in the coming weeks".
Initially it was estimated the £7.5m Gobbins project would draw in more than 70,000 visitors in its first year, but a series of setbacks has meant that just 23,914 paying customers have enjoyed the unique attraction.
Business was first disrupted between January and April due to storm damage. Its reopening was short-lived when it was shut again on June 20 because of increased levels of rockfall. It has not been open again since.