Walk in mid-air over Irish Sea on restored Gobbins path
FOR intrepid adventurers who consider a train journey or stroll along the Antrim coast too boring, the opportunity to be suspended in mid-air over the wild Irish Sea has almost arrived.
The public re-opening of the famous Gobbins path has now been confirmed for next Wednesday, allowing visitors to feel the sea air on their necks as they capture some spectacular views.
Originally built in 1902 along the base of the Gobbins Cliff at Islandmagee, the path attracted more visitors than the Giant's Causeway in its heyday.
It was designed in Victorian times as a commercial venture to attract passengers to use their rail link between Belfast and Whitehead.
Closed to the public in 1954 after falling into disrepair, the finishing touches are this week being put to a massive renovation project costing around £7.5m.
Glass tunnels will allow walkers to traverse part of the Irish Sea in mid-air as they pass through up to 23 medal bridges and water-splashed gantries.
A full excursion is expected to take several hours - at a cost of up to £8.50 - although a cliff-top walkway with viewing points is available for those with less stamina.
There is also a stairway leading from the path onto the beach.
A boat trip to the Gobbins is also due to be offered for those unable to complete the 2,400 metre walk along the narrow, uneven path with steep climbs in places.
Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said the Gobbins path would be a "must do" for residents and tourists alike.
"This path offers a natural rugged beauty that can only be appreciated by a visit. The path is steep in places but reveals a wealth of stunning unrivalled views of the Irish Sea.
"Caves, steps, and tunnels carved through the rock, and offers a real mix of wildlife, flora and fauna on the numerous cliffs - it truly is a remarkable attraction soaked in heritage."
Ms Donaghy added: "In fact, people have booked a tour of the Gobbins cliff path from as far away as Australia, New York, Sweden, France and Germany and beyond – we have been overwhelmed with the world wide interest in this local tourist attraction."
Much of the funding for the restoration came from EU programmes, with a further £4m from Larne Borough Council and £200,000 from Ulster Garden Villages Ltd.
The path is expected to cater for several tours a day and will be accessible from 10am to 9.30pm during the summer.
Online booking is recommended for the tours, which last around two and a half hours.
It will cost £8.50 for adults, and £6 for those under 16 or over 65, while registered carers get in for free.
While family tickets are also available, the Gobbins website states that the path is "not suitable" for young children.