You’ve left Belfast behind, and now it’s time to start your journey along the Causeway Coastal Route. And already, just 32km (20 miles) in, you’ve found something remarkable. Let us introduce you to The Gobbins.
Hanging from basalt cliffs directly over the Irish Sea, The Gobbins cliff path is an Edwardian labour of love. Designed by the railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise in 1902, The Gobbins closed in 1954 when the depression of the 1930s and lack of materials post-World War II caught up with this one-of-a-kind visitor experience.
But after extensive renovations, The Gobbins opened again, and it’s a hugely popular stop along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route.
On the Walking the Edge tour, you’ll find yourself standing on steel bridges above the churning waves, running your hand along the cool stone of the cliff face and enjoying up-close views of The Gobbins many sea birds.
What can you see along The Gobbins?
At one point along the path, the walk bends like an elbow out into the Irish Sea, creating a “natural aquarium of seawater”. Take a moment to see if you can spot some of the many species of fish swimming below.
The Tubular Bridge
Modelled on the original, the Tubular Bridge is an exposed tubular walkway hanging some 10 metres above the chilly Irish Sea. And the weight of this metal behemoth? An impressive 5.4 tonnes.
Named after the path’s creator over 100 years ago, Wise’s Eye was made to provide access to “the most spectacular section of the original path… over crashing waves to sunken caves and sheer cliff faces.”
The Gobbins geology
Beautiful as it is, there’s more to The Gobbins than looks. Prominent in this basalt coastline is sedimentary rock, which hints at climates found as far back as the Triassic and Jurassic periods. Amazingly, an ichthyosaur fossil, found at nearby Larne, dates from a time millions of years ago when this part of Ireland would have been completely submerged under a warm, shallow sea.
The Gobbins biodiversity
The cliffs at The Gobbins play host to Northern Ireland’s ONLY mainland colony of puffins. And this biodiverse area welcomes more than just puffins. Other winged creatures that feed and play here include kittiwakes, shags, guillemots, razorbills and, from time to time, a peregrine falcon. Alert visitors might just well spot cormorants diving for fish in the Irish Sea.
Clinging to the ancient rock, too, are diverse plants, ferns and grasses, among them spleenwort, a fern from which a cave here takes its name.
Take a boat tour
You can also take sea tours of The Gobbins. Setting off from Ballylumford Harbour, the hour-long tour packs in stunning sea views of The Gobbins and Islandmagee's cliffs. Keep your eyes open for sightings of porpoises, seals and maybe even whales!
Visiting The Gobbins
What sort of footwear is required?
You could be refused entry if you are not wearing appropriate footwear such as hiking/walking boots with a thick tread and ankle support. Trainers are not acceptable.
Are there any restrictions on the walk?
A moderate level of fitness is required to walk The Gobbins. It is not suitable for those with cardiac, respiratory or joint conditions (if you have another medical condition and are unsure of your level of fitness, please check with a staff member at time of booking). Additionally, the tour is not suitable for anyone under the height of 1.2 metres (around 4 feet tall). Walking aids are not permitted and smoking and eating are not allowed along the cliff path, although a bottle of water and warm outdoor clothing is recommended.
What is the walk length?
The Gobbins experience includes a short bus ride, then a steep descent which is followed by over 100 steps to the path entrance. Led by a friendly, enthusiastic personal guide brimming with local knowledge on the area’s history, flora and fauna, the guided tour along the cliff path is approximately 3km (2 miles) and ends in a steep upward climb back to your transport. Overall, the experience lasts three hours.
Where is The Gobbins located?
The Gobbins is located in Islandmagee, County Antrim on the Causeway Coastal Route, 32km (20 miles) from Belfast. For GPS purposes, the location is The Gobbins Visitor Centre, Middle Road, Islandmagee BT40 3SX.
What facilities are provided at the Visitor Centre?
Visitors can leave their car in the free car park before entering the centre and perusing The Gobbins exhibition. A welcome video is played, explaining a little of the history of the tour and safety features. Each visitor is provided with a helmet before a bus then takes you from the centre to the beginning of the cliff walk, returning at the end of the tour. Tea, coffee and light snacks are available in the café.
How do I buy tickets?
Tickets for The Gobbins must be booked in advance. This can be done either online, on the official website, or over the phone. For group bookings of over 10, contact the Gobbins directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: +44 (0) 28 9337 2318.