The Gobbins

First Published on NI Lights August 2015

Just a couple of days before opening I was thrilled to get a sneak preview of the highly anticipated Gobbins Cliff path.  Initially opened in 1902, The Gobbins path was the crowning glory in the engineering career of Berkeley Deane Wise.  After closure in the 1950s and many plans to reopen the wait is finally over.

Wise's Eye
Wise’s Eye

We begin at the Visitors Centre to view a short safety video and be issued our helmets, these were much needed when walking through an almost pitch dark cave.  Here you’ll also get the opportunity to take in the exhibition, detailing lots of facts, figures and history of this unique visitor attraction.  From there it was onto a minibus for the few minutes journey to the start of our experience.

Visitors Centre
Visitors Centre

The 2.5 to 3 hour guided tour will take you over rocky terrain, across several bridges and into caves at the bottom of these County Antrim cliffs.  There is a steep but wide tarmac path and gravel steps to Wise’s Eye where the path really begins.

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Our knowledgeable guide gave us a brief history of the path, informed us of the geology of the cliffs and explained the protected flora that we passed.  For example the basalt at John’s Elbow is 66 million years old and pictured below is the flower of County Antrim.  I’ll let you guess what it is though.

county flower of antrim
county flower of Antrim

He also told us of many birds that make the Gobbins their home at different times of the year, be warned at one particular section there is bird poop everywhere, and its pungent! The bridge here has a covering to protect the birds from us, but thankfully it keeps us protected of being pooped on too!

IMG_4355

The walk is a little over 2km.  It’s taken at a gentle pace which allows you to fully absorb the wonderful scenery encompassing you and time to hear tales of the area and of the path which first opened over a hundred years ago.  The bridges are beautifully engineered with the Tubular and Swinging bridges sympathetically modelled on Wise’s creations at the turn of the 20th Century.

tubular bridge
tubular bridge
swinging bridge
swinging bridge

The whole stretch offers a unique viewpoint of the Belfast Lough and beyond.  Along the path, and on a clear day (that we were so fortunate to have), you’ll see various headlands, the Copeland Islands, Ailsa Craig and even the Mull of Kintyre.

“the gallery”

railings

The walk is an exhilarating one for all the senses, you’ll be greeted with the smell of the salty sea and the sounds of crashing waves and the cry of gulls and kikiwakes.

A walk along the Gobbins Cliff Path is breathtaking and a must-do experience for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.  I think this could fast become the top attraction in Northern Ireland.  I’m already planning multiple return visits, perhaps a little later in the year when conditions may be a little wilder!

Tours are now available to book online and by telephone +44 (0) 28 9337 2318
Prices are as follows:

Adults – £15
Concession – £12
Family Ticket (2 adults, up to 3 kids) – £38
Registered carers – free.

 

Check out the website for more information.

Please note: before going we were given some safety information which to me seemed a little overkill but having taken the tour most of it made good sense. However to clarify…

1. Suitable footwear is a must – Hiking boots/shoes, desert boots or trainers with a good tread.  Wear anything other than this and it is unlikely you will be allowed on the tour.

2. Provided helmets must be worn – the path takes you through a cave and past overhanging rocks.  You may bump your head (like me) and you will be glad of the protection.  They even cater for those with a small noggin (like me).

3. A height restriction is in place – must be over 1.2 metres (4 feet) tall.

4. The path is narrow in parts, and there is a steep climb at the end however the path here is a concrete road and the steps down to the main path along the cliffs are wide, so it is very manageable with a basic level of fitness.

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