The Gobbins Coastal Cliff Path Walk
The Gobbins Cliff Path is located in Islandmagee, Northern Ireland along the County Antrim coast from Belfast.
The first part of the path was originally opened in August 1902 with extensions in 1906 and 1908 and was created as a tourist attraction by the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company to rival the success of the Giant’s Causeway.
Having another highly successful tourist attraction like this in County Antrim, Northern Ireland would be a welcomed boost to their profits and revenues.
The entrance to the cliff path is known as Wise’s Eye, named after the design engineer, and you can clearly see to this day, The Gobbins etched into the Basalt rock.
Other notable names were given to sections of the path, bridges, tunnels and headland including Man O War, Deane’s Head, Berkeley’s Point, Sandy Cove, Tubular Bridge, Gallery, Aquarium, The Tunnel, Spleenwart Cave, Otter Cave, Swinging Bridge, Seven Sisters Caves and Gordon’s Leap.
It was the only cliff walk of its kind in Europe and included bore caves, natural sea-life aquariums and treacherous ravines.
The two mile long path, including a below sea-level tunnel and a 70 foot long tubular bridge, snakes its way along the coastline at the base of the 250 feet high Gobbins cliffs of Islandmagee, County Antrim.
It was the brainchild of Berkeley Deane Wise, an Irish railway engineer, who can be seen pictured above with his wife, Leah, beside the famous Tubular Bridge.
He initially planned the path to stretch an ambitious 3.25 miles from Wise’s Eye to Heddle’s Port, but the last section beyond the Seven Sisters Caves never happened due to cost.
Wise was a highly skilled engineer and designer and his expertise was creating stations, bridges and tunnels along challenging sections of the railway which gave him the perfect skills for one of his best civil engineering projects, The Gobbins.
Although The Gobbins Coastal Path proved to be a very successful tourist attraction for the BNCR, it was closed to the public just 34 years later around 1936.
After World War 2, the cliff path re-opened with a new company in charge.
The newly formed Ulster Transport Authority had taken ownership of the tourist attraction in 1951 and refurbished parts of the walk and strengthened some the bridges.
Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough demand from local tourism to keep The Gobbins Cliff Path maintained and operating safely so it was closed to the public again in 1961.
Other local design and architecture achievements by Wise included:
- Glenarriff Paths, Bridges and Tearoom, 1889 & 1891.
- Whitehead Promenade and Blackhead Path, 1892.
The Gobbins Cliff Path Reimagined
After being closed to the public for over 50 years, the Gobbins coastal path is finally going to be re-opened to the public.
Through years of campaigning from local residents and champion historian and lecturer, John Lennon, Larne Borough Council created a project to restore the path.
They’ve been working on comprehensive plans in recent years to acquire funding from various partnerships and agencies around Europe to bring the historic cliffs back to life and recreate the thriving tourist attraction they once were.
This special tourism initiative is part of a cross border effort with the Republic Of Ireland to also enhance an area called Sliabh Liag in County Donegal.
The entire project has cost £7.5 million and special thanks have to go to the Interreg Programme (European Territorial Cooperation) administered by the North East Partnership who donated over £3 million.
Thanks also go to Larne Borough Council rate payers who contributed £4 million and Ulster Garden Village Ltd who gave £200,000.
The reconstructed path will still be accessed through Wise’s eye and will feature 15 new stainless steel bridges, one of which will be a replica of the infamous Tubular Bridge.
You will also still have access to the 22m long, pitch-black, tunnel section through the basalt rock and 6 new gallery structures which are pinned to the cliff face.
If you don’t fancy the walk along the lower path, there is also an opportunity to take in the magnificent views from the new cliff top path.
This wasn’t part of Wise’s original project of 1902, but Tourism NI and the North East Region Rural Development Programme thought it would be a great addition to the area.
With its cantilevered viewing platform that juts out over the cliff edge and staircases that look out over some of the new stainless steel bridges and Belfast Lough, it really does add to the whole experience.
From the cliff top viewing platform, on a good clear day, it’s possible to see Ailsa Craig, Western Scotland, Isle of Man, North Wales & The Copeland Islands.