The Gobbins tourist attraction on Causeway coast won't be open for Easter holidays after landslide
NORTHERN Ireland's newest tourist attraction - £7.5 million coastal walkway The Gobbins - will not reopen in time for the Easter holidays as contractors struggle to repair damage caused by Storms `Abigail' and `Frank'.
The Gobbins, in Islandmagee along the famous Causeway Coastal Route, closed on December 30 after heavy rain and winds destroyed part of of the pathway which runs along sheer cliff at the edge of the Irish Sea.
No tickets are being sold for the attraction, with hundreds of advance bookings for January and February already cancelled.
While some of these visitors have rebooked "for a later date" there is no indication from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council when it will reopen.
The Irish News understands that work had stalled while experts tried to established what had caused the paths to fail.
However, a recent report commissioned by council confirmed "the resultant landslip and damage to the access paths was caused by the severe weather conditions and was unforeseeable".
Around 3,000 tonnes of rubble was displaced affecting the access path leading down to the entrance at Wise's Eye.
A council spokeswoman said "The Gobbins undertakes regular reviews of the area and a geotechnical engineer's report carried out indicated that there was a substantial land slip occurring, affecting the lower end of the main concrete access pathway and the first section of the main gravel pathway."
The estimated repair bill for Mid and East Antrim Council is £50,000.
There is concern over the future of the pathway, as geologists point out that such landslides are common on the North Antrim Coast, caused when sloping areas of soil become saturated with rainfall, losing structure and breaking away from underlying rock.
The cliff path is accessed by a 1km steep downhill walk.
First created in 1902, the path is a self-proclaimed "unexpected white-knuckle walk" 1.2km long, running along the cliff face and through a tubular walkway over the sea.
The path has historically required constant maintenance to cope with the impact of waves and storms and extremely high rainfall caused by Storm Abigail followed by Storm Frank caused the recent damage.
However, the council said work has started to install a new drainage system to help manage future heavy rainfall and repairs of the main access pathways will begin "as soon as possible".
"It is envisaged that the opening of the attraction will not be in time for the Easter break," the spokeswoman said.
"... The health and safety of visitors and staff at The Gobbins is and remains the council's priority. Health and safety inspections... are carried out every morning prior to it being opened to the public, ensuring health and safety is never at risk."
The council said the opening date will be announced ""in the weeks ahead", apologising for "any disappointment caused to visitors".
The visitor centre remains open.
The project cost £7.5m with just under half from the EU and £4m from Larne Borough Council.