Gobbins Cliff Path reopening as repair bill rises to £800k
Repairs to the Gobbins Cliff Path in Islandmagee are understood to have cost £800,000 to date, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The majority of the troubled £7.5m landmark attraction is set to reopen to the public tomorrow after its latest closure.
Due to maintenance work, the flagship tourist attraction had been accessible to visitors for only six of the 22 months since it originally opened in August 2015.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has budgeted a total of around £2m for repair work - meaning that the end bill for the attraction could be up to £9.5m.
From tomorrow, most of the two kilometre cliff path walk will open for July and August, with the exception of an end section where engineering work has temporarily ceased due to the bird nesting season.
To offset this, visitors will be offered the chance to visit nearby Port Muck, the third largest bird sanctuary in Ireland.
Engineering works will recommence after the path closes again on September 1, with the entire path expected to be operating fully from April 2018.
The walk first closed in January 2016 after a landslip caused by heavy rainfall damaged some parts of the access path. The path briefly reopened over the 2016 May Day weekend, but closed again on June 20 for essential maintenance to prevent rock falls.
The visitor centre, viewing platform and access path leading to the walk's entrance at Wise's Eye were the only parts of the attraction to remain open.
The council had revealed the Gobbins will operate "seasonal" opening times in future due to annual cliff maintenance work.
A source told the Belfast Telegraph that around £800,000 had been spent on repairs to date.
Mid and East Antrim Mayor Paul Reid said he was "delighted" to announce the reopening, which the council believes will play a "strategically vital role" for the area's economic development.
He stated: "We have strong forward bookings from visitors from across the world and I look forward to introducing them to this must-see attraction which has been acknowledged as one of the most ambitious tourism projects undertaken in the UK and Ireland in recent years."
Council chief executive Anne Donaghy said she believed the Gobbins would be a "key contributor to the long-term growth of tourism within Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland".
She stated: "The Gobbins is recognised as a world class attraction which is set to bring new visitors from all over the world to Mid and East Antrim and the Causeway Coastal Route.
"The international significance of the Gobbins cannot be underestimated in terms of direct revenue generation and the broader impact this will have on the Northern Ireland economy and tourism product. I look forward to the further development of this very unique visitor experience."
The Gobbins manager Alister Bell described the pathway as "a physically demanding adventure" but said that the rewards are "well worth the effort".
"The 24,000 thousand visitors who have had the chance to do the walk have all raved about the variety of fascinating features including views, bird life, sea life and the elements themselves," he said. "It provides one of the most exciting experiences any outdoor lover will remember for the rest of their lives and we know that it has now popped up on a number of people's 'bucket list' requests!"
The Gobbins will open tomorrow and remain in operation for seven days a week until September 1.