Scrabo Tower off bounds to public as safety fears force closure of landmark
One of Northern Ireland's most recognisible landmarks has been closed to the public.
Scrabo Tower has dominated the skyline in north Down for over 150 years and has been a popular tourist attraction, offering stunning views across Strangford Lough.
But owner the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has shut the tower for the foreseeable future due to health and safety concerns. The NIEA explained that the tower had suffered serious water damage because of its exposed position, which damaged the electrical supply and lighting.
As a result, a spokeswoman said it had "very reluctantly decided not to routinely open Scrabo Tower to the public for the foreseeable future".
"Its exposed location makes the tower very vulnerable to wet and windy weather.
"The Department of the Environment has carried out works costing hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last 30 years on repointing the exterior stonework and pressure-grouting voids in the walls.
"Despite this, the tower continues to suffer serious water ingress. This has, for the second time in five years, damaged the electrical supply and lighting.
"Without lighting the safety of visitors would be compromised."
The NIEA apologised for the decision and said it hoped the tower may be not be closed on a permanent basis.
"NIEA may open the tower for special occasions if it is safe to do so," she said.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon said he was very disappointed.
"It's a very attractive place to visit. I would urged the NIEA to ensure they are taking every step to address the issue of water seepage and electricity and make sure health and safety standards are met to allow people to enjoy this special place," he added.
Scrabo Tower was built in the hills overlooking Newtownards in 1857.
Also known as the Londonderry Monument, it was erected in memory of Charles Stewart, the third Marquess of Londonderry, who was one of the Duke of Wellington's generals during the Napoleonic Wars.