Gobbins Coastal Path to finally open - we take a sneak peek
After years of delays, the Gobbins Coastal Path opens in just 10 days, and we've taken a sneak preview of Northern Ireland's exhilarating new tourist attraction
It's hardly a place for plimsolls and picnicking.
Neither is Northern Ireland's newest tourist attraction one for the faint-hearted.
The restored Gobbins cliff path in Islandmagee, Co Antrim, first built at the start of the last century, boasts spectacular views, exhilarating walkways, and a sky, sea and cliff-face feast for the senses.
The Gobbins experience comprises a steep descent, followed by about 100 steps, followed by a 2km walk - all before the arduous upward climb back to base camp.
And it could yet give our lame summer a last-minute lift.
Mass visitor attraction it's not, however - access is strictly-controlled. Anyone hoping to make the journey in the next few months is urged to book online, as groups are limited to 10 to 15.
Tours start on the hour from 10am, so only around 100 people will get to see it each day. The walk is also not for young children - those seven years old and under are unlikely to be admitted.
The visitor centre has an eye-catching display, a tunnel children can crawl through and an old-fashioned photo opportunity.
A mini-briefing and video warn anyone with respiratory or heart issues to think carefully about attempting the walk.
A minibus takes you on the five- to 10-minute journey to the path and you are accompanied by a guide for the entire route.
After leaving the centre in Ballystrudder, our "dramatic coastal experience" took three hours.
The access and exit routes are very steep and the walk itself is very up and down, taking its toll on your knees and lower legs.
The Copeland Islands off Donaghadee with Bangor as the backdrop seemed remarkably close as we went through Wise's Eye, the entrance tunnel bored through the headland by Berkeley Dean Wise, chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Co, who designed the original path.
It is very uneven in places, so many will be watching their feet.
Cormorants and cranes are almost close enough to touch.
Soon comes the first major surprise, a cave said to have been used by smugglers up to the 1960s. Then a very different cave, plunging you into darkness, eerie and thrilling at the same time. When you are not beside crashing waves they are under you - at least when the tide is in - as you cross a sequence of steel bridges.
Then you retrace your steps, with the guides taking stops for some informative background, and to take questions.
A significant new addition to our visitor pleasures, it should generate new accommodation and eatery potential on underrated Islandmagee.
The Gobbins is an area of basalt sea cliffs, up to 60m high, on the east coast of Islandmagee.
The name comes from the Irish An Gobain, meaning 'the points of rock'.
Its legends include the Gobbin Saor, a terrifying giant who lived in the cliffs.
The original Gobbins cliff path was installed in 1902 by Berkeley Dean Wise as a series of spectacular bridges and gantries.
Booking is due to open soon here.