The Gobbins Cliff Path was our first stop on the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. This dramatic cliff walk is one of the must-see attractions in County Antrim and was a fantastic way to kick start our Irish road trip.
The Gobbins is only 20 miles (32 km) from the airport, so is ideal for a day trip from Belfast. We flew into Belfast Airport, collected a hire car, and drove directly there, with just a quick pitstop for breakfast along the way. So easy!
So is it worth visiting the Gobbins? If you love nature, stunning views, and exciting experiences, you should definitely give it a go.
Read on to discover all you need to know before booking your own Gobbins Cliff Path experience.
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What is the Gobbins Cliff Path?
The Gobbins is a dramatic cliff walk around the Islandmagee peninsular near Larme, in County Antrim.
The path leads through a network of interconnecting bridges, walkways, and tunnels around the cliff face. From this elevated pathway, visitors will see ancient rock formations, stunning scenery, and fabulous wildlife.
How did the Gobbins get its name?
If you are wondering about the cute name, it comes from the Irish “Gobán”. This translates as “tip of land” or “a headland”.
A brief history about the Gobbins Cliff Path
Although you might assume it is one of Northern Ireland’s new attractions, the Gobbins Cliff Path has been attracting visitors for over a hundred years. In fact, at one point it could compete with the Giant’s Causeway for visitors.
Irish railway engineer, Berkeley Deane Wise, created the coastal walk in 1902. He wanted to provide an opportunity for ordinary people to enjoy the unique coastline. Just like the Giant’s Causeway, the landscape at Gobbins was formed over millions of years from tectonic and climatic forces.
Wise’s design was incredibly innovative and the Gobbins became a masterpiece of engineering at the time. His unconventional tourist attraction was a huge success, with people coming from near and far to enjoy it.
After the depression of the 1930s, the number of visitors to the area significantly reduced. The Gobbins Path was closed during the second world war and although it reopened shortly afterwards, it closed again in 1954.
It wasn’t until over 50 years later, they made the decision to reconstruct the Gobbins Cliff Path, using Wise’s original design. With 15 new bridges and 6 elevated paths, it was eventually re-opened to visitors in 2016. Since then, it has become one of the best stops on the Causeway Coastal Route and top things to do in Northern Ireland.
The Visitor Centre
The Gobbins Cliff Walk experience starts at the Visitor Centre in Ballystruder, near Larne. The Visitor Centre has a small exhibition area, toilets, a café, and a gift shop.
On arrival, you’ll meet your guide, who will provide a short safety briefing and safety helmets. You need to arrive 15 minutes early for this.
From the Visitor Centre, each group travels by minibus to the start of the Gobbins Cliff Path. You’ll be in a group of about 16 visitors, who remain together for the tour.
The drive to the Gobbins’ entrance takes about 5 minutes. It is then a steep walk from the cliff top to the entrance of the walk. (It’s fine going down, but a tough one on the return!)
To start the walk, you’ll pass through an elaborate gate, known as Wise’s Way. This is the first of many photo stops along the way!
During your walk, you’ll cross a series of bridges, many of which remain unnamed.
The guides use the bridges as rest points to share information about history, geology, and wildlife at Gobbins. They are also useful passing places for returning groups.
From the bridge, you’ll be able to spot Sandy Cave. This sheltered cave at the back of a narrow inlet, was the only place calm enough for sand to gather.
In the days of the original Gobbins path, Sandy Cave was a popular spot for holidaymakers, who came to picnic. It’s hard to imagine how the Edwardian ladies would have navigated the bridges to get there!
The Tubular Bridge
The Tubular Bridge was the most remarkable feat of engineering on Wise’s original path. In those days visitors would cross on wooden planks.
Today, it is one of the most iconic sights on the pathway and another of the most popular photo stops. The modern bridge replicates the original, which collapsed in the sea.
At the far end of the Tubular Bridge look out for the Man O’War sea stack, created from the cooling of molten lava.
After the Tubular Bridge, you will traverse the Gallery, a narrow path wrapping round the sheerest cliff of the walk. Considered a great feat of engineering at the time, the Gallery offers a bird’s eye view of the crashing waves below.
Once you’ve navigated the Gallery, you’ll come to a bridge overlooking the Aquarium. The Aquarium is a shallow pool of seawater, with rock pools providing refuge to an abundance of aquatic life. Have a look for fish, molluscs, sponges, and red seaweed.
As its name suggests, The Tunnel leads through the cliff face and passes below sea level.
It is a narrow, dark passage and you’ll be glad you have your safety helmet!
After emerging from the Tunnel, you’ll pass a couple of caves in the cliffs.
The first cave, Spleenwort Cave, provides the perfect habitat for the Spleenwort ferns, which flourish in the moist crevices.
The next cave, Otter Cave, got its name after the original engineering team found animal bones in the cave. No it wasn’t otter bones, but a collection of ox, sheep, rabbit, and birds. However, the Gobbins workforce believed that local otters had brought the bones to the cave! The entrance has since been sealed by a landslide, so it’s impossible to know.
The Third bridge, Swinging Bridge and Gordon's Leap
A couple more bridges will lead to the end of the path. The third bridge is a new one, yet to be named. Any ideas?
The final bridge, the Swinging Bridge, is a suspension bridge, which stretches across the mouth of a cave. It was a replica of the original built by Wise. It takes you to the outcrop known as Gordon’s Leap.
At the final point, you’ll turn and retrace your steps. Remember it’s a tough climb back up to the minibus, but you can get a lift if you have medical issues.
What wildlife will you see at the Gobbins?
The Gobbins Cliff Path is an area of Special Scientific Interest and is perfect for nature-lovers.
You will see a variety of seabirds, including Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, and Cormorants. We were able to see them nesting on the cliffs and hear them. At times, they are extremely noisy. If you’re lucky, in summer you’ll be able to see Puffins who dig burrows to bury their eggs.
Keep an eye on the cliff face, where you’ll see many unusual coastal plants, thriving in the local environment. The tour guide will point out sea campion, Spleenwort and Harebell.
Out at sea, you may see dolphins or porpoise if you’re lucky. We didn’t, but spotted Harbour Porpoise the next day at Carrick-a-Rede.
The Gobbins Cliff Path - Know before you go
Tickets for the Gobbins Coastal Path
You can’t walk the Gobbins Cliff Path without a guided tour. The tours run nearly every 20 minutes until 2.30pm. However, it’s advisable to book tickets online in advance, to guarantee a place.
It’s one of the best places to visit on the Causeway Coastal Route, and tickets sell out at peak times.
Cost of tickets (2023)
- Adult – £20
- Child/student – £16
- Family – £42
How long does the Gobbins Cliff Walk take?
You should allow about 2.5 hours for your guided tour. This includes the safety talk, drive to the entrance, and the walk itself.
The walk is about 3 miles (5km) in total. It is not accessible to all, as there as some steep steps and narrow pathways. It is an out-and-back route, so you’ll return the same way.
What to wear for the Gobbins Cliff Walk
As you’re in Ireland, the Emerald Isle, it is advisable to pack a waterproof. However, on the day we went the skies were blue and the sun was shining. In fact, as it is quite physical, we got quite hot and only needed tee-shirts.
You must wear sturdy shoes or walking boots, as much of the path is uneven and the bridges can be slippery underfoot.
What to take on the Gobbins Cliff Walk
You really don’t need to take anything, other than water.
Visitors may not take bags but can leave them in free lockers at the Visitor Centre.
How do you get to the Gobbins Cliff Path?
You can drive from Belfast to the Gobbins on the A2 Causeway Coastal Route. It is a beautiful scenic drive, with some spectacular views.
Travel through Carrickfergus and turn right on B90 Island Lower Road. You can then follow the signposts.
The postcode for the Gobbins Visitor Centre is BT40 3SL. You’ll find a big car park at the Visitor Centre.
By public transport
The nearest train station is Ballycarry. Take the Larne line from Belfast, which will take about 1hr 10 minutes. Afterwards, it is a 20-minute walk from the station.
The best accommodation near the Gobbins
If you want accommodation near to the Gobbins, you’ll find a good choice of self-catering properties.
However, for a true taste of Ireland, treat yourself to a stay in the 17th century Ballygally Castle!
We stayed further up the coast in Cushendall, in the Antrim Coast Apartments. These two-bedroom apartments had good facilities and were ideal for an overnight stay. The apartment was in walking distance of the village and was good value for money.
Accommodation in Belfast
Alternatively, you could do a day trip from Belfast, where you’ll find plenty of choice of accommodation.
We stayed on the edge of town in an amazing 2-bedroom apartment (Titanic View), which is perfect if you have a car.
Other places to visit in Northern Ireland:
There are many fantastic places to visit near the Gobbins Coastal Path. Carrickfergus Castle, an impressive Norman stronghold, is only 15 minutes away, or you could walk to Blackhead Lighthouse.
Alternatively, one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland is visit the Glenariff Country Park. This is the largest of the nine Glens of Antrim. It offers a choice of beautiful nature walks, including a circular gorge walk with waterfalls, woodland and ornamental gardens.
One of Ireland’s most popular attractions, the Giant’s Causeway is 45 miles away, so you’ll be there in an hour. Another of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland is Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, but I wouldn’t do it on the same day as Gobbins!
Frequently asked questions
No, you must book a guided tour to do the Gobbins walk.
You should allow about 1.5 to 2 hours to visit Carrick-a-Rede. Although it doesn’t take long to cross the bridge, you will need time to walk to the bridge, admire the views, and enjoy time on the island.
The Gobbins Cliff Walk is physically challenging, so you do need to be reasonably fit and agile. Although the walk is only 5km, you have to climb and descend many steps and bend in a tunnel.
The return path is also fairly steep, though you can get a lift if you have medical issues.
No animals are allowed on the Gobbins Path.
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