The Gobbins pulled in foreign tourists - before safety fears closed attraction

Due to a unique construction envisaged by the Victorians, The Gobbins allows visitors to take in stunning coastal views

Due to a unique construction envisaged by the Victorians, The Gobbins allows visitors to take in stunning coastal views

The Gobbins cliff path has cost more than £82,000 to maintain and repair since it reopened just over a year ago, the local council said.

The £7.5 millon visitor’s attraction in Islandmagee, Co Antrim, was forced to close because of storm damage and a landslide in January, causing hundreds of bookings to be cancelled.

This image of a seriously  cracked path at The Gobbins  just months after it opened  was  taken earlier this year

This image of a seriously cracked path at The Gobbins  just months after it opened  was taken earlier this year

It was billed as a European first, with its precipitous course across the dramatic cliffs but is set to remain shut until next year.

The two-mile white-knuckle walk first opened to the public in 1902.

The path was hewn out of the basalt sea cliffs and the thrill of traversing its suspension bridges and navigating its dark tunnels and caves drew visitors from far and wide.

In its heyday, the unusual walk was reputed to attract more tourists than the iconic Giant’s Causeway further up the coast.

The Gobbins path near Islandmagee, Co Antrim

The Gobbins path near Islandmagee, Co Antrim

But the creation of imaginative railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise fell into disrepair in the 1950s and access ended in 1954.

After a massive investment project the Gobbins reopened and welcomed its first paying visitors in six decades last year.

Demand stretched as far afield as Australia, former Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Mayor Billy Ashe said.

But part of the attraction’s problem is the type of rock, basalt, which has a lot of cracks in it.

Water ingress, followed by freezing and thawing, causes sections to break off and the danger of debris falling contributed to the decision to close the attraction.

East Antrim Sinn Fein Assembly member Oliver McMullan said: “While there is no doubt tourism plays a key role in the economy of East Antrim and that this, along with other attractions, can help bring in visitors, local ratepayers are rightly worried about how much it will cost and whether it provides value for money.”

A Press Association freedom of information request to the council confirmed that the local authority had spent £82,502.28 to date, since the opening of the Gobbins coastal path last August, on maintenance and repairs.

The council said that the expenditure was essential as part of its rockfall management responsibilities.

“As a unique coastal visitor experience exposed to the elements, The Gobbins will require ongoing routine maintenance involving scaling of the cliff face to mitigate the effects of coastal erosion on the path.”

The council added: “Coastal areas are prone to natural vulnerability and council constantly monitor the safety aspects of the walk.”

But despite the problems, the potential for the attraction to draw in foreign tourists is clear.

During the first year of operation 55% of visitors came from overseas.

The council’s original projections for year one was 37,500 visitors and in the seven months the attraction was open it saw more than 24,000 visitors descend the steep paths and make their way around the unique cliff walk.