THE GOBBINSstory

The original path at The Gobbins was opened in 1902, and immediately captivated visitors. But why was this unique attraction built in this dramatically beautiful but isolated location?

The path was part of the vision of Berkeley Deane Wise, Chief Engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company, to use the recently expanded railway line to attract visitors to this spectacular part of Ireland.

With the arrival of the steam train in the 19th century it became possible to move large amounts of people and goods in relatively short times. Not only did the railways turn cities like Belfast into industrial powerhouses, they opened up remote beauty spots to a new kind of industry – tourism.

The Gobbins path was Berkeley Deane Wise’s final contribution to the tourism offering of the area. It was also his crowning glory.

‘Hibernia’ - the first locomotive to run on the first railway in Ireland, the Dublin-Kingstown line.

From The Dublin Penny Journal,
22 November 1834

Map of The Gobbins produced by the Ordnance Survey after Wise had opened his path.

Reproduced by Land and Property Services
© Crown Copyright CS&LA156

TOURISMAND THE RAILWAY

Despite the terrible impact of the Great Famine of the 1840s, the expansion of the Irish railway network continued at a furious pace. Trains now connected the major cities and ports, transporting the goods produced by the rapidly growing industries.

Looking for a way to use their stock on weekends, the railway companies organised excursion trips to beauty spots like Whitehead, where they developed attractions to lure visitors. Railway tourism was born.

Engraving of railway carriage on the Dublin-Kingstown line, the first railway in Ireland.

From The Dublin Penny Journal, 26 December 1835

ENGINEERING GIANTS

A visionary engineer himself, Berkeley Deane Wise followed in the footsteps of two titans of the Victorian period.

The greatest engineer of the century, Englishman Isambard Kingdom Brunel worked on an extension of the original Dublin to Kingstown railway line, built by William Dargan, ‘the father of Irish railways’.

Conceived as part of an ambitious rail and sea connection to Wales, it involved the herculean engineering task of overcoming the section of coast at Bray Head which, it was claimed, ‘would never be conquered’.

Thanks to a network of tunnels, viaducts and bridges along the cliffs, the work was successfully completed in 1872, partly thanks to a brilliant young engineer – Berkeley Deane Wise!

ISAMBARD
KINGDOM BRUNEL

© Mary Evans Picture Library

WILLIAM
DARGAN

© Mary Evans Picture Library
  • AWise’s original plans for his station at Portrush.
    Courtesy of the Deputy Keeper of Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland T3020/152
  • BBerkeley Deane Wise surveys the railway line close to Whitehead.
    Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Museum

TOURISM MASTERMIND

Believing the scenery in this area rivalled anywhere else in the world, Berkeley Deane Wise, along with his pioneering colleague Edward Cotton, virtually invented modern tourism here.

Within a year of joining BNCR Wise laid out a series of innovative attractions at beautiful Glenariff, which could now be reached by rail.

As well as a series of scenic paths and rustic bridges, Wise created shelters with coloured glass to view the spectacular waterfalls. He even built a tearoom with a dedicated dark room for photographers!

One of Wise’s specially constructed bridges at Glenariff, Co. Antrim.

WHITEHEADTHE TOWN THAT WISE BUILT

The extension of the railway to Larne, with its new steamer service to Britain, helped Wise to develop this area as a tourist haven.

He transformed tiny Whitehead, building a promenade, auditorium and bandstand and importing sand to create a beach. The railway company attracted many new residents to the town by offering free first-class tickets to anyone who built a villa valued at more than £25 (a scheme later expanded to second-class tickets for cheaper homes).


Whitehead 100 years ago, bustling with visitors enjoying Wise’s innovations.

Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Museum

Front page from tourist guide to Whitehead published in the 1930s.

Courtesy of The Hathi Trust/University of California

Book your place today!

One of Northern Ireland's greatest adventures...

Availability & Weather Report Update...

Availability....

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Work is well underway at The Gobbins and the attraction is on track to reopen in time for the peak summer season.

 

The Gobbins Path tour will operate for two/thirds of the path up until the Man ‘o’War sea stack. Visitors will be also have an additional guided tour of Portmuck harbour where they will learn about the sea life, geology and history of this picturesque gem in Islandmagee.

 

Tours will be held hourly from 10am to 6pm and each tour will last approx. 2.5 hours. Booking prices and conditions are available via out website www.thegobbinscliffpath.com.

 

Priority booking will be given to members of the public who have previously had tours cancelled due to our closure last year.

Have you a gift card from The Gobbins which you havent used yet? We are also giving priority to those with a gift card to book for the summer season before we open sales on general release.

The Gobbins guest relations team are currently welcoming inquiries from anyone holding a valid gift card. To inquire further, please don’t hesitate to contact the Gobbins Visitors Centre on 02893372318 quoting your gift card number (found at the bottom of your gift card).

 

 

Once priority booking is complete, tickets will be put on general release at the beginning of June through our website.

 

We will update you again once the on line booking has gone live.

 

If you have any queries, please contact us on 028 9337 2318.

 

 

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