Giant rip-off? Visitors to Causeway centre furious at ticket costs
A giant storm is brewing over Northern Ireland's newest tourist magnet after it was branded a “rip-off” by visitors.
Last month the National Trust’s £18.5m flagship Causeway Visitor Centre on the north Antrim coast opened to much acclaim after 18 months under construction.
The state-of-the-art building, designed to offer a gateway to the province’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprises exhibition spaces, a cafe and a shop.
But complaints are growing over an “exorbitant” entry fee of £8.50 per person (£4.25 for children) — particularly when visitors can reach the Giant’s Causeway itself free of charge.
Father-of-three Adam Fullerton-Heley, who went with relatives from America, said the whole experience was a “rip-off” — a view shared by others on Trip Advisor, the travel information website.
“I paid £38 for my family and my aunt and uncle, but I then found out that getting to and from the Giant’s Causeway itself on the bus wasn’t included in the ticket price, and I had to pay an additional £8,” the Belfast man told the Belfast Telegraph.
“In other words, I paid £38 just to see a coffee shop and a souvenir shop and a video running on a two-minute loop; that’s it. It’s just ridiculous.”
He added: “They also give the impression that the only way to get to the Giant’s Causeway is via the centre, but that’s not the case. You can actually get there for free.”
“Overpriced”, “not worth the fee” and “poorly done and a rip-off” are some of the remarks that have been written on Trip Advisor since the visitor centre opened on July 2.
There was criticism that the National Trust neglected to inform people that they could gain access to the Giant’s Causeway without paying.
There were also calls to clarify that the bus — which shuttles visitors to and from the geological attraction — costs £1 per person each way. A contributor calling himself MrThompsonNorthCoast posted an entry under the headline: “Extortionate price for a terrible experience.
“When you get to the visitor centre it’s not long before you’re looking around wondering where the rest of it is!” his post reads.
“They are actually charging people £8.50 a head for the opportunity to come in and spend more money; it’s absolutely ridiculous!”
He ends his commentary with a caution: “Save your money and avoid the visitor centre.”
Another commentator, byrned17, advised: “Avoid the centre. The visitor Centre doesn't add anything to the experience of viewing the spectacular Giant's Causeway.”
A spokeswoman for the National Trust said the visitor centre offers “a well-defined, fully accessible, state-of-the-art visitor experience. All components of the new Visitor Experience offer great value for money when compared with other international tourist attractions”.
The National Trust says: “The Visitor Experience admission fee is £8.50 for adults, £4.25 children, £21 family ticket, under 5s and National Trust members are free.
“The admission fee includes: access to the Visitor Centre facilities (cafe, retail, exhibition and toilets including a Changing Places facility), use of a hand-held audio guide to explore the landscape outdoors with over one-hour of content, a guided walking tour led by a National Trust guide lasting more than 45 minutes, and visitor information leaflets and parking.”