A troubled tourist attraction on the Antrim coast that has been plagued by a series of closures is to re-open to visitors tomorrow, having run up a potential repair bill of up to £2m.
With its breathtaking views, exhilarating walkways and fascinating wildlife, the Gobbins Cliff Path at Islandmagee is billed as a dramatic coastal experience.
But Mid and East Antrim Council’s £7.5m flagship attraction has been beset by a string of problems, meaning it has only been accessible to the public for about nine of the 32 months since it opened.
The council has budgeted £2m on repairs, but was unable to tell the News Letter how much of that has been spent to date.
However, it means the end bill for the attraction could come in at £9.5m.
When it first launched to much fanfare in August 2015, it was anticipated that tens of thousands of visitors would flock to the path every year.
But the site was forced to close in December 2015 after a landslip brought on by heavy rain caused major damage to the access path.
Since then, it has been hit with two prolonged periods of closure for essential maintenance to prevent rock falls.
From tomorrow, visitors will once again be able to traverse the coastal path over a series of bridges, tunnels and water-splashed gantries that hug the cliff face.
The attraction will remain open until October, when it will close for a period for surveys and planned maintenance.
A council spokesman said the remedial works would “prevent the necessity for lengthy unplanned closures in the future”.
And he maintained the closures have not stifled the huge interest from around the globe, with bookings in high demand. The local authority is aiming for 50,000 visitors to the site in the coming year.
The Gobbins was originally installed in 1902 by railway engineer Berkeley Dean Wise as a series of spectacular bridges and gantries.
After five decades as NI’s top tourism attraction, even exceeding the popularity of the Giant’s Causeway in its heyday, the path fell into disrepair and closed in 1954. But the site was reinstated in 2015, with Mid and East Antrim Council providing over half of the funding for the scheme.