New M2 service station is such a hit they've brought in extra staff to cope
It's the unlikeliest of tourist attractions, but that's exactly what a new Northern Ireland service station has become.
Since it opened its doors earlier this month, some 3,500 people have flocked to Applegreen each day and it has been so busy they've even had to increase staff by over 25% to cope with demand.
So what is the appeal of the £6.25m facility - that is in essence a petrol station- on the northbound carriageway of the M2 between Glengormley and Templepatrick?
Well, the motorway site boasts several eateries - including Burger King, Subway, Chopstix and Lavazza - as well as The Bakewell, which is Applegreen's own cafe brand and the only one in Northern Ireland.
The UK's largest bakery chain, Greggs, is also poised to open its first franchise here tomorrow.
And although the airy, spacious building, complete with business centre, is already a big hit with the business community, its allure will no doubt increase with free wi-fi on its way.
There are also a convenience shop, indoor and outdoor children's play areas, bathroom facilities, 16 car fuelling points, an HGV fuelling area and 155 parking spaces.
Applegreen stations, owned by Petrogas Global, are of course already familiar to northern motorists travelling to and from Dublin, but this is the first to begin trading on this side of the border.
Area manager Matthew Scally said it had been a huge success since it opened, attracting commuters, business people and tourists.
"We've had roughly 3,500 customers per day since we opened on April 8," he said.
"We started with 75 staff and we're up to 95 already, because it's very busy.
"Everyone loves the facilities. It's a popular lunch destination. Business people love the lounge area and the children's play areas are also a big draw, because we don't charge and parents can sit down and have their coffee while the children play.
"When the tourist season is in full swing here it'll be a great destination for them too."
Mr Scally said competitive pricing was at Applegreen's core.
"We're certainly not expensive. Our big thing is giving value for money for customers and we were very conscious of that when we were opening up," he said.
There has been a lot of hype on social media surrounding Greggs, which opens tomorrow morning, just in time for the bank holiday weekend.
Staff at the Templepatrick site - Applegreen's 12th on the island of Ireland - said they were bracing themselves for a surge in customers.
Supervisor at Lavazza cafe, Malachy McCormack, said hundreds of people had passed through his doors.
"We're open every day from 7am until 11pm and it has been really busy, with people from across Northern Ireland and tourists," said the 26-year-old.
"Now the holiday weekend is coming up we're expecting even more people to pop in." Mr Scally said work would begin on an Applegreen service station directly across the road on the other side of the M2 in 2016.
One is currently under construction on the M1 at Lisburn and there will be another Applegreen situated directly across the road from that as well, with all four expected to be finished by the end of 2016.
‘We got fuel, then we came back for food’
Louise (38), Catherine (11) and Mary (6) Mullan
Kilrea mum Louise said it was the family's first visit. "It's impressive inside and very handy for lunch. Mary also had a great time in the play area."
Mollie Diamond (18) and Adam Morrison (21)
The Queen's University students said they had popped in for lunch. "The last time we came we just stopped for fuel, but we came back for food today," Mollie said. Adam added: "We can't wait until Greggs opens. There has been a lot of hype about it."
Businessman Luthfur Rahman (31)
"It's good for fuel and food. I live in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, but I'm here on business a lot and I'm familiar with the Applegreen brand."