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...

Welcome to The Gobbins….

The Gobbins Path is currently CLOSED until Spring 2018. However our visitor Centre is open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm and the Café is open daily from 10.00am until 4.00pm.

Further updates on The Gobbins Path and its re-opening will be provided here and also on our social media sites.

Please contact us on 028 9337 2318 or email info@thegobbinscliffpath.com if you would like further details.

 


A spectacular location where you can truly escape everyday life and experience nature at its most elemental. During your amazing 2.5 hour fully guided walking tour you may even taste the sea salt on your lips, feel the Irish Sea wind, marvel at tales of local smugglers, witness the native sea birds and keep your eyes open for some dolphins swimming off the rugged coastline. The Gobbins experience will take you along a narrow path hugging the dramatic cliff face; across spectacular bridges amid the crashing waves of the North Channel; traversing hidden Tunnels under the Irish Sea; up and down rugged staircases carved into the cliff face and into caves that were once home to smugglers and privateers.

The Gobbins visitor centre is the start of your adventure and where you will meet your guide for your adventure, please remember to bring along your booking confirmation. The centre hosts a fabulous interactive exhibition telling the history of The Gobbins Path, its flora and fauna, and the story of how the path was reborn. Guests with young children or with reduced mobility are welcome to browse our gift shop, enjoy a coffee in The Gobbins Cafe, or enjoy the outdoor children’s play and picnic area. You may also avail of the free car parking located at the Visitor Centre. We understand that The Gobbins Path may not be suitable for everyone and details are contained on our booking page.

The Gobbins Path was masterminded by the Irish railway engineer, Berkley Dean Wise as an incredible tourist attraction. The path originally opened in 1902 and was later abandoned in the 1960’s until an investment of over £7.5 million brought about its rebirth in 2015.

 

The Gobbins Experience

The Gobbins Path is an arduous trek that is often narrow and uneven, accessed by a very steep pathway. Due to the nature of the rugged coastal location suitable outdoor clothing and walking boots or shoes are essential. Without exception, all guests must wear a safety helmet whilst experiencing The Gobbins. To enjoy The Gobbins a good level of fitness is needed. You must be fit enough to climb 50 flights of stairs and walk a very steep 1 in 5 gradient.



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