OK let’s start this honestly – I actually visited The Gobbins in late November last year. I kept meaning to write this blog and then once I did, what do you know…it closed following a storm in January. Well now this breathtaking path is open again so here I am writing my blog about our brilliant day out.
Incase you didn’t know The Gobbins is a cliff path along the Antrim Coast in Islandmagee and after 3 failed attempts at getting booked on a day that suited both of us, I finally fitted us in FOUR WEEKS in advance to go to The Gobbins. It’s really REALLY popular. Like most people I’d seen a few things online via Discover NI and The Belfast Telegraph about this great coastal pathway reopening and thought ‘oh this might be something different to do some weekend’…the pictures looked great and it looks like more than your average coastal path. This is very true, it isn’t.
Dating back to (and quite frankly I don’t know how they did it) 1902, this path has been a Northern Ireland landmark for over a century. I’ll be honest, growing up in Newtownards and then living in Belfast I had never heard of it but once I saw a few snaps of the rugged coastline I was sold.
Once we were kitted up in our waterproofs and hiking boots and following a thorough safety check it was hard to imagine ladies in their corsets, and children venturing to this spot for a casual day out. I will say this – do not arrive in a pair of pumps, be sensible this is not a casual walk but a hike across wet stones and into caves. The weather can change at any minute so be prepared to get wet and be cold!
After a short bus ride to the starting location we bundled down a path to Wise’s Eye, the opening of The Gobbins. Once through you will be privy to the Antrim Coastline in all its spectacular beauty. Crossing bridges and entering caves, about a third of the way through you will come to the The Tubular Bridge, possibly the most photographed and recognisable spot on The Gobbins Coastal Path. It offers a 360 degree view of the sea, cliffs and surrounding rock as well as plenty of bird life and I’m pleased to say a very brief view of a school of dolphins in the distance.
Not one for the faint of heart is The Tunnel that delves deep into the sea and back out the other end. As you take the steps down into complete darkness you can hear the waves crashing along side you. There is water on either side but fear not, a high internal wall will keep you dry. This was a surreal moment for most of our group but thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not often these days that you can enjoy something that is truly different and feels a little risky.
The tour ends just beyond The Swinging Bridge (don’t worry it doesn’t actually swing!) and Gordon’s Leap. You’ll then walk back to the entrance and up the lane to where the bus picks you up. All in all it takes about 2.5-3 hours and I’m not ashamed to say I was 100% cream crackered by the end of it! In saying that I will also 100% be going back. It’s truly a beautiful coastal walk. Not for the faint of heart it climbs up to cliff faces, delves down into cavernous caves, skirts around rock, birds nests and looks over the sea below. You will learn about
smugglers, wild life and the history of rail. It is a feast for the eyes and a wonder to behold. Am I selling this enough? Because I truly believe you should go. I’ll not lie, it’s a tough walk and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone not strong on their feet, there isn’t really anywhere to stop and rest but I can guarantee you’ll sleep well that night!
The Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee, is open daily from 9.30am-5.30pm. Tours run every hour and last approximately 2½ hours; £10.00 adults, £8 children and concessions, family ticket (two adults + one, two or three children under 16) £25. You will need to book in advance by either calling 028 9337 2318 or visiting thegobbinscliffpath.com. There is a height restriction of 4 feet.