A COUNCILLOR’S claim that ‘penguins’ can be found at one of County Antrim’s top tourist attractions – The Gobbins – sounds very fishy, a rival councillor says.
Alderman Paul Reid, a DUP representative for the Larne Lough area, has been extolling the virtures of the spectacular Gobbins cliff path walk and says it is possible to get close up views of different sealife.
He told a meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council in Ballymena he was delighted to see The Gobbins – “one of the real jewels” in the area – re-opening following lockdown restrictions.
Alderman Reid said: “If you haven’t been down The Gobbins…I have been down The Gobbins twice…and I’ve made it back, even up the hill …but I would encourage Members who maybe haven’t been down to take the opportunity.”
He continued: “It really is breath-taking, to go down to see the birds and really not only to see the birds but be up close to penguins and puffins and things that you don’t normally see anywhere else, maybe around Ballymena or that… not that I am biased in any way.”
Alderman Reid said The Gobbins re-opening showed they were serious in Mid & East Antrim about “getting things open again and getting open for business and trying to grow our economy and our tourism again”.
Penguins are seabirds that live almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere mostly around Antarctica.
In the past there have been claims that penguins have been spotted in British Isles waters but experts say creatures like Razorbills are sometimes mistaken for the flightless seabirds.
At the Ballymena Council meeting, Larne Lough Ulster Unionist councillor Keith Turner’s ears p-p-pricked up at the mention of the penguins.
He quipped: “Just a quick question for Alderman Reid. Whilst I realise that the two animals live on different continents…I was just wondering whether he saw any polar bears chasing the penguins while he was down The Gobbins!”
Meanwhile, Mayor Peter Johnston has welcomed a hugely positive response to the reopening of The Gobbins Coastal Path.
The attraction reopened to the public on 1 September and now boasts the coveted ‘Good to Go’ charter mark and a host of enhanced safety and hygiene measures to ensure peace of mind for all visitors and staff.
The Mayor said: “I am delighted to see The Gobbins is now open and welcoming visitors back again. It is wonderful to learn large numbers of people have already booked for what is an absolutely breath-taking experience.
“The safety measures are a massive step forward for us as a Council and a borough as we work our way back to normality and promoting the wealth of tourist and visitor attractions we have to offer.”
The Mayor also congratulated the Council on the efforts made to achieve the Good to Go status.
“The Good to Go status is a huge achievement and sets the bar for safety and hygiene standards, it is a real confidence boost for everyone working there and visiting to know these measures are in place.”
As part of the new measures, all visitors to The Gobbins Coastal Path must pre-book their tour. More details can be found at: https://thegobbinscliffpath.com/
The Mayor extended an invitation to all Elected Members to take part in a tour of the popular tourist destination later this month to see the extensive new measures for themselves as well as experience what is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and dramatic walks in Europe.
STORY: NEVIN FARRELL