£2.4 million masterplan for Glenariff

An artist's impression of a possible new  visitor centre, cafe and event building at Glenariff Forest Park.
An artist's impression of a possible new visitor centre, cafe and event building at Glenariff Forest Park.

A DRAMATICALLY-sited glass-fronted visitor centre perched on a hilltop to give stunning views of Glenariff Glen could be on the way.

The showpiece scheme, which will cost an estimated £2.4 million, has received enthusiastic preliminary backing from Moyle Council but, importantly, a funding package has still to be put in place.

The new building would replace the existing visitor centre at the park and would be embedded into the side of the steep hill but jut out over Glenariff Forest Park.

Consultants have updated Moyle Council on the plans which would also see new caravan and mobile camper van provision; holiday ‘pods’ placed amongst trees; an adventure playground and a sensory garden.

A presentation given to councillors also revealed £400,000 could be spent on Ballypatrick Forest Park near Ballycastle including a suggestion to limit vehicular traffic around the six mile one-way drive.

And a quarter of a million pounds could be spent on upgrading Ballycastle Forest Park including improving carparks and features at the Fairgreen and Dunamallaght entrances and the introduction of equestrian events and mountain-biking.

Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane, said she believed Glenariff Forest Park had been “neglected” in terms of the wider tourism picture but she hoped the plans will catapult it into being a tourist hotspot.

Cllr Colum Thompson said the forests in Moyle present the biggest opportunity to increase tourism and Cllr Randal McDonnell said Glenariff has “all sorts of potential”.

He hoped the new visitor centre could be used all year round.

Cllr Padraig McShane claimed there had never been much major investment in the Glens and he said the scheme could bring jobs and benefits for the district.

Cllr Joan Baird welcomed the scheme but is keen to ensure the environment is not damaged at Glenariff.

She was disappointed Clare Wood near Ballycastle was not included in the plans.

Moyle Council’s Director of Development Services Esther Mulholland said a new visitor centre at Glenariff could be a real focal point for visitors.