Giant's Causeway chiefs refuse to back down in pricing row
Ian Paisley jr blasts £8.50 entry fee for visitor centre
National Trust bosses have insisted they will not review the controversial pricing policy for the Causeway Visitor Centre.
But they may look at signage issues to ensure members of the public know they can access the world-famous rock formation at the site for free.
The news comes as public and political pressure grows over the new £18.5m flagship building which has been branded a ‘rip-off’ by tourists.
Many people are unhappy at the £8.50 per adult — £4.25 for children or £21 for a family — fee they are being charged to park in the National Trust car park, which includes access to the new visitor centre and facilities.
Visitors claim the current signage doesn’t make it clear that there is free public access to the Causeway itself — as well as alternative parking — for free. They have also complained they are being charged for entry into a shop and cafe where they will spend even more money.
The Trust has also said it would respond to a letter from the North Antrim MP Ian Paisley jr (right) who described the entry fee for adults as “excessive”.
This fee allows visitors access to a cafe, shop, exhibition, toilets and changing facilities — as well as an audio guide.
There is no access to any of the facilities at the centre without paying the admission fee, although it still costs nothing to visit the basalt stones and walk along the coastal site.
People have also complained that the fare for the shuttle bus down to the site is not included in the entry fee.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the National Trust's assistant director of operations, Billy Reid, said the pricing policy had been benchmarked against other world destinations.
“We’ve had over 116,000 visitors through the centre since it opened on July 3 and we’re finding that the people who come have had a really good time, they’ve enjoyed it and they think it’s value for money,” said Mr Reid.
He said he didn't think the cost of the visitor centre needed revising.
“We’re not set up to compete with the local towns and villages like Bushmills, or suck business away from other people,” Mr Reid said.
“Actually we hope the people who don’t want to come into our centre will use local facilities.
“We’re there to facilitate people who want to have the full experience of the Giant’s Causeway, spend two or three hours there and go away happy.
“If people just want to come and see the stones and they’re using other local facilities, whether it’s in Bushmills or Ballycastle, then we’re very happy.”
There are complaints that the Trust has not made it clear the world-famous stones can be seen for free.
“If we need to look at the signposting we will, but there is a big ramp that leads up to the site,” Mr Reid said.
“We don’t want people to have come along and go away disappointed.
“The whole purpose behind this was to provide a world-class facility for a world-class site,” he added.
Mr Paisley, the DUP MP, said the current admission-linked pricing policy was driving away business from potential multiple users.
“There are people who holiday in the area who may want to go to the cafe without paying an entry fee,” said Mr Paisley. “Losing that customer base is really shortsighted and the National Trust should reconsider its pricing policy which inhibits more footfall.”
What the National Trust offers you for £8.50:
- Car parking
- A new visitor centre featuring an illuminating exhibition showcasing the stories, legends and the science behind the Giant's Causeway
- Pocket-size audio guides in a variety of languages
- A ‘grab and go’ style cafe
- A retail facility featuring local clothes, food and gifts
- Tourist information
- Fully accessible toilets and a Changing Places facility for people with disabilities