HENRY McNeill believed the gems of the County Antrim coast should be opened up to be explored and enjoyed by all.
Now a proposed new sculpture in honour of the ‘founding father of local tourism’ is set to be the latest attraction on the world famous Causeway Coastal Route.
Pioneering hotelier Mr McNeill turned Larne into a must-visit destination during the 19th century, with a fleet of jaunting cars regularly lining the town’s streets to take eager guests on adventures throughout the area.
Under new proposals, a life-sized sculpture depicting a jaunting car, driver and horse is set to be installed along the route which nowadays draws thousands of visitors from around the world.
Mid and East Antrim Council secured £72,000 from the Department for Communities (DfC) towards the sculpture project, which celebrates the key role the hotelier played in showcasing his beloved area to visitors and paving the way for Mid and East Antrim’s ever-expanding tourism industry.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Maureen Morrow, said: “This fantastic sculpture, which renowned sculptor Kevin Killen has been commissioned to create, is a great way of marrying art and tourism.
“The artwork would be a striking new landmark for visitors and locals to enjoy, and a wonderful legacy to a local man who achieved so much personally and for his home town.
“As a Council we are committed to investment in our town centres and tourism. This sculpture will be an excellent addition to Larne and a stunning piece of art for the local community to enjoy.”
Council has prioritised maximising the potential of the attractions on its doorstep to fully deliver on the borough’s tourism offering.
Holidaying in Mid and East Antrim is firmly on the rise, according to recent figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, with more than £51 million spent by visitors to the borough last year.
The area has seen a 17% increase in tourism revenue in the area and an 11% increase in jobs in the tourism sector from 2015 to 2017.
The statistics show that more than 296,000 overnight trips were made in Mid and East Antrim in 2018 – a jump of more than 40,000 on the previous year.
Members of the local community are being asked to get involved in the Jaunting Car sculpture project and contribute their views at a special event being held this Saturday 16 November between 3-4pm at Larne Museum.
At the event in Larne, local historian Liam Kelly will speak on the history and significance of the jaunting car and tourism in the development of Larne.
This will be followed by a short presentation and workshop by the artist Kevin Killen on the proposed sculpture and offering the community an opportunity to contribute to the final stages of its design.
Spaces at this event are limited so those interested should contact Larne Museum & Arts Centre on 028 28262443 to register their interest in advance.
Separate workshops are also planned to take place with students in local secondary schools over the next few weeks.