Taking on The Gobbins

The entry to The Gobbins cliff path means squeezing through Wise’s Hole to start the adventure.

The website describes this walk as ‘The most dramatic walk in Europe’ and so here I was on a miserable July morning ready to take on the challenge. You can’t drive to the place and you are directed to the Visitor Centre some two miles away before kitting up with waterproof gear, sturdy boots and a hard hat. So on this miserable morning we started off with a safety briefing then taken by minibus to a cliff top road where the adventure began.
So where am I? Well this is one of Northern Ireland’s newest tourist attractions and is located on the Antrim coast some fifteen miles north of Belfast. The Gobbins is a path which literately clings to the cliff face along a scenic section of the Antrim coast and was created by the Irish railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise and built as a tourist attraction and first opened to the public in 1902. Plans were quite ambitious with the original aim was to make it 3.25miles long but dogged with rock falls meant that the length of the walk had to be shortened and his bigger plan never came to fruition. In the early part of the 20th century it was a popular tourist attraction with many visitors from England and Scotland coming across to Larne on the steamer for the day but the railway company who operated the venture eventually ran into financial difficulties by the 1930’s and was eventually closed just prior to World War II. It reopened briefly after the war but again closed in 1954, that is until 2015 when funding from the local council and the EU carried out extensive work to reopen the path as a new tourist attraction with a difference. A series of walkways and bridges were built just above the high water line to provide the visitor with a safe route to explore this dramatic coastline.
Our group consisting of around fifteen of us plus a guide descended from the road via a steep driveway to the coast but today it is raining and not even Scotland could be seen. It might have been June but a bitter north easterly was blowing and it felt more like January. The Gobbins was entered via a hole cut in the rock face called Wise’s Eye. This was where fares were once collected. Over the next mile and a quarter we edged our way along the cliff face on a series of rock cut steps, bridges and walkways with the guide giving a potted history of the surroundings including flora and fauna and the interesting geology of the area which included places where we could see the rare Gobbinsite mineral which occurs only in a few places in the world. At one point the path disappeared into a sea cave and descended then ascended via a series of steps which took us down below sea level. In places the route of the old path could be seen and all of the original bridges had either been removed or had been washed away. The walk went a little further than a suspension bridge which spanned a watery chasm but today this is where our walk ended as there had been a recent rock fall a few days earlier and the last little part of the path was closed. It was now time to retrace our steps and squeeze past a couple of other parties on later tours.
Full details of the walk can be found on;- www.thegobbinscliffpath.com

The adventure begins along The Gobbins cliff path.

A typical section of the path.
Part of the original path from 1902.
Clinging to the cliff face on The gobbins cliff path.
Entering the sea cave.
A canopy along this section of the path to protect from rock falls.
The rare Gobbinsite mineral which only occurs a few places in the world.