Belfast Telegraph

Gobbins booking system is overwhelmed as its deluged by a sea of thrill-seekers

By Noel McAdam

The Gobbins cliff path has shown its huge popularity just hours after it reopened to the public.

The restored tourist attraction in Islandmagee faced its first difficulty - at the box office.

Its booking system was overwhelmed after hundreds of callers attempted to secure a tour of the historic pathway.

"Looks like we may reclaim the title as Northern Ireland's premier visitor attraction more quickly than expected," a spokesman quipped.

Visitor Centre manager Alister Bell added: "Staff are working hard to meet the large volume of calls being received.

"This can be frustrating for callers at times, but we would appeal to our clients to bear with us and be patient.

"They can be assured that the attraction is well worth the effort and suggest that if the number is engaged they call back later today or tomorrow, when things will be less hectic."

Although the dramatic, restored walkway is finally available to tourists, it is at present incomplete.

The cliff-top walk part of the route is not yet finished and will not be available for another few weeks.

A spokesman said: "The top path is due to open in September. This part of the restoration could not be finalised until the lower path was fully complete. This has been in line with the planned construction schedule."

The former Larne Borough Council had pushed for the restoration of the historic and once world-famous Gobbins path since the 1970s.

It now falls under the new Mid and East Antrim Council, which gave the long-delayed project the final go-ahead last month.

Council chief executive Anne Donaghy said: "It is extremely rewarding that the council has been able to reinvigorate what is one of the best tourism attractions, not only in NI, but across the whole of the UK.

"In fact, people have booked a tour from as far away as Australia, New York, Sweden, France and Germany and beyond. We have been overwhelmed with the worldwide interest in this local tourist attraction.

"It is fantastic to see such interest from across the globe, but what has impressed me the most is the eagerness and excitement of local people at the opening of The Gobbins."

A number of groups of local people were given exclusive access to the path in the run-up to its formal opening yesterday.

Visitors have been advised to book - and allow up to three hours to take the full walk.

Now mostly restructured, The Gobbins brings a modern day twist to an Edwardian tourism attraction, with 23 bridges, paths and walkways.

While steep in places, it reveals a wealth of stunning, unrivalled views of the Irish Sea, with caves, steps and tunnels carved through the rock, and a real mix of wildlife, flora and fauna.

"The Gobbins not only promises a dramatic and beautifully stunning walk, but it offers much more, with its new visitor centre and exhibition area, a cafe serving the world famous Rinkha ice cream and a gift shop stocking local arts and crafts," the council chief added.

Many locals have been appointed as tour guides to bring to life the stories, myths and legends of The Gobbins and to give all visitors a warm welcome.

"A personal highlight for me is the tubular bridge on the walk, which took my breath away. The Gobbins is a must-do for local people as well as international tourists," Ms Donaghy added.

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