On the thrilling Gobbins Experience, nature isn’t content to just sit back and be admired. It completely engulfs you: from the all-enveloping Irish Sea winds and the dolphins dancing off the coastline, to the squawking native sea birds and the salty air as it hits your lips.
When this cliff path was first constructed in Islandmagee, on the County Antrim coastline at the turn of the 20th century (the crowning glory of the Victorian railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise), it was billed as having “no parallel in Europe as a marine cliff walk”. Arriving at The Gobbins and seeing how this network of walkways and bridges hug the dramatic basalt cliff face, that strapline remains true to this day. Local guides, proud of this spectacular place, join you as you lace up your walking boots and put on a hard hat for a 2.5hour walking tour.
Your trip begins via a hole through a rock called Wise’s Eye. As waves crash below you, you make your way along narrow paths, up stairways carved into the cliff face, and through tunnels hidden under the sea. Your guide shares geological and geographical information, and points out plants, ferns, grasses and wildlife in this Area of Special Scientific Interest. There are puffins digging burrows to lay eggs, cormorants diving for fish, and perhaps even some dolphins. This is nature in its purest form: exciting, elemental and ever-changing.
There are plenty of stories, too. You’ll hear how nearby Portmuck – or Pig Island – got its name. You’ll learn about local smugglers and Islandmagee’s witch trial of 1711, when eight women were put on trial in what was believed to be the last witch trial in Europe.
All the while, as you listen, nature is trying its hardest to win your attention: waves crash excitedly below your feet, and sea birds cry out.
On The Gobbins Experience, the history is just as captivating as the natural habitat.