Connect with us

Antrim and Newtownabbey

£2.3million Gateway Visitor Centre Officially Opened

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery was joined by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA to officially open the new £2.3m Gateway Visitor Centre, Antrim. Nestled on the shores of Lough Neagh, this state-of-the-art visitor centre features an exciting, new exhibition space, a restaurant and is also home to Lough Neagh Rescue.  

The exhibition space tells the story of the Lough and its influence on our past, present, and future. The sights and sounds will excite and enthuse all ages and the learning experience reflects five key themes around the Lough: Legends, Life, Living, Lives and Links.  

Home to Lough Neagh Rescue, The Gateway equips volunteers with top class facilities to help them deliver their invaluable service to users of Lough Neagh. The space has been designed to specifically meet the needs of this rescue service offering a prime location with full sight of and direct access to the Lough. 

Situated on the first floor, The Boathouse restaurant offers a family friendly environment, with an outdoor terrace offering panoramic views across Lough Neagh. Their diverse menu includes delicious fish and chips and authentic pizzas, making it the perfect stop off for locals and visitors to the area.  

In the upcoming months, ‘The Protector of the Lough’ art sculpture will be erected at the water’s edge to complement the area. Inspired by the works of WB Yeats, this magnificent silhouette will stand tall against the horizon and Finn McCool will be instantly recognisable from far across the water celebrating the Lough, the land, the folklore and the heritage.

The Gateway project was first considered as part of the Antrim Development Strategy 2005 – 2010 which recognised the development potential of the location to benefit local residents and visitors. The project is recognised as an important asset to act as a stimulus for local tourism recovery post Covid-19. It was part-funded under the Rural Tourism Scheme of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs which contributed £500,000 and the Heritage Lottery Fund under the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership Scheme which contributed £60,000. The Council invested the remaining funding of £50,000.   

(L-R) Chief Executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Jacqui Dixon; Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery; Chairman of Lough Neagh Partnership, Conor Jordan and Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Noreen McClelland are pictured at the Official Opening of The Gateway Visitor Centre in Antrim.

Officially opening the new visitor centre, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery said; “Antrim is the only town with direct access to Lough Neagh and the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. I am immensely proud to formally open this fantastic facility, a location which I firmly believe will become a jewel in the Borough’s list of wonderful tourist attractions. Uniquely positioned on the edge of Lough Neagh, this new centre will further complement local attractions such as Antrim Castle Gardens, Clotworthy House, Shane’s Castle and local golf provision and will boost our tourism offering, providing visitors with a high quality experience in a stunning setting”.  

He continued; “This project will generate significant economic and tourism benefits for Lough Neagh and its surrounding areas. I would like to take this opportunity to thank DAERA, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership for the support they have provided for this much needed facility.” 

Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs commented, “Tourism is vitally important to our rural economy and the competitive nature of the tourism marketplace, over the next few years, cannot be underestimated.   

(L-R) Connor Corr, Lough Neagh Partnership; Sean Rocks, Chairmain for Lough Neagh Partnership; Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Noreen McClelland; Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery and Liam Teague, Lough Neagh Partnership.

“The Rural Tourism Scheme was established in order to invest in natural and built heritage projects that can act as key drivers for encouraging rural tourism and out-of-state visitors.  We believe that investing in tourism projects, will enable not only linkages to be made to other local attractions, but also the development of ‘tourism corridors’, which will encourage and increase visitor footfall in our rural areas.   

“I’m therefore delighted to be invited to the opening of the Gateway Centre at Lough Neagh, which provides an interactive space telling not only the story of the lough but also providing a focal point for tourists to plan their visit, exploring all that the local area has to offer.   

“It is clear from my visit here today, that the creation of visitor experiences showcasing our natural landscape and that are compelling and accessible to all, can offer long term sustainability and growth for rural tourism in Northern Ireland. I wish this project every success going forward.”  

Antrim and Newtownabbey

Mayor Shows Support for New Local Business – ZITI by Knags

Mayor, Councillor Billy Webb is pictured with Kevin McCourt, Owner of ZITI by Knags, a new Italian restaurant in Glengormley.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb visited ZITI by Knags, which recently opened in Glengormley, to show his support for this new business. Offering delicious Italian cuisine in a contemporary and stylish setting, the new family-run restaurant has created 23 jobs for the local area following an investment of £250k from owners, Kevin and Gina McCourt.  

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb commented: ‘I am delighted to be here today to show my support for the opening of ZITI by Knags. It is fantastic to see local businesses expand in our Borough and contribute positively to our local economy, especially in the current climate. I’d like to congratulate Kevin on restructuring his business during the pandemic, and bringing something new and different to our Borough. I wish Kevin and his family well in their venture, which I am sure will be a great success.’ 

Mayor, Cllr Billy Webb is joined by Gina, Kevin and Ashlin McCourt during a visit to their newly opened restaurant, ZITI by Knags.

Kevin McCourt, Owner of ZITI by Knags commented: ‘Owing to the pandemic and the restriction on functions, it was important that I adapted our business and offering to make sure we were on the front foot.  The new 90-seater restaurant boasts a state-of-the-art woodstone pizza oven, offering delicious stonebaked pizzas, while our extensive Italian menu features fresh pastas, seafood, designer burgers and steaks, catering for all tastes. 

We have carefully thought out the layout of the restaurant, which features private booths, family booths and back-to-back seating, giving an overall spacious feel. I’d like to thank my family for their support and hard work, especially my daughter, Ashlin who has been at the forefront of the planning and development of this new addition to the Knag’s offering.’ 

The new restaurant replaces Knag’s Function Suite, complementing the other strands to the family-run chain of restaurants: Knag’s Bar & Grill, Knag’s Deli Sandwich Bar and Prestige Catering.  

For more information including menus or to book visit www.zitibyknags.com  

Continue Reading

Antrim and Newtownabbey

£189million A6 Randalstown to Castledawson Dualling Scheme

The Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon is pictured cutting the ribbon with the McNaughton Family from Woods Primary School.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has opened the completed A6 Randalstown to Castledawson Dualling Scheme ahead of the final weekend of works on site.   

The £189million scheme to upgrade 14.7 kilometres of the A6 North Western Transport Corridor between Randalstown and Castledawson commenced in June 2017 and represents an investment of £189m by the Department.

On Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 May, the final works to remove the remaining cones and temporary traffic management arrangements will be completed and by Monday 31 May the entire 14.7km of the road will be open for road users with national speed limit in place. 

During a visit to the area today to congratulate all those involved in delivering the scheme, Minister Mallon said: “This is an exciting time for road users, the local community and all those involved in delivering the Flagship A6 Randalstown to Castledawson scheme as we celebrate the completion of works this weekend.  I’m delighted to have the opportunity today to meet some of those who have worked tirelessly on this project over the past four years.     

“In August 2019 and again in November 2020, stretches of the new dual carriageway were completed and gradually opened to the travelling public. This has already brought significant benefits for road users.  The final completion of the scheme is therefore fantastic news for the 22,000 vehicles using the route each day.  Car users, freight and public transport services along this route will benefit from shorter, safer and more reliable journey times. Crucially this will also allow our emergency services to achieve faster response times when assisting our citizens in need.  

“The scheme has also helped to secure jobs in the construction industry, with the vast majority of construction spend going directly to the local economy.  Significantly the project provided local employment opportunities for education leavers and the long term unemployed as well as training placements for apprentices and students across a number of disciplines.  This has been an invaluable experience for all those involved and will assist them in their future careers.”

Continuing, the Minister said: “The A6 is a strategically important route, as it connects the North West to Belfast and beyond so I’m delighted that in addition to this scheme opening my Department continues to progress the Flagship £220m A6 Dungiven to Drumahoe Dualling scheme which will see the construction of a further 25.5km of dual carriageway and a bypass of Dungiven.  Significant progress continues to be made on that scheme and it is on target to be completed in 2022. 

“The construction of both these schemes will improve connectivity, contribute to the economic development of the area and bring long term benefits to road users and local communities.  Crucially they will also improve road safety and improve regional balance.”  

Acknowledging the support of the local community and the partnership working to deliver the scheme, Minister Mallon said: “I want to acknowledge the impact of the works on residents, landowners, businesses and road users.  Delivering extensive improvements to the roads infrastructure cannot be done without causing significant disruption.  I’m sure at times this has been very frustrating, particularly for those living in the vicinity of the works, so I want to thank the local community for their cooperation and understanding over the past four years.  I hope that everyone will see the wider benefits this road is now providing.

“A project of this size and significance requires partnership working across a number of organisations to ensure it runs smoothly.   The job of constructing such a major piece of Infrastructure is no mean feat and two of our largest contractors, Graham Construction and Farrans, have worked together in a Joint Venture along with our consultants AECOM, designers ARUP and Roughan & O’Donovan and many sub-contractors and suppliers to deliver this project. I am also very grateful for the input from public sector partners.  To all involved, you can be rightly proud of your contribution to this impressive new road.”

Leo Martin, Board Director of GRAHAM FARRANS JV said: “The completion of the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling project will unlock a huge infrastructure route for the North West Transport Corridor and we are delighted to have played our part in delivering this.

“Since first breaking ground in summer 2017, we have overcome multiple engineering challenges and managed the project through strategic weekend closures to maximise safety and productivity throughout the project. This has been a huge scheme that has brought the scope and breadth of our civil engineering expertise into sharp focus.

“I would like to thank all stakeholders involved in the project for their tremendous efforts and to the public and businesses on the route for their patience and cooperation while we were improving this important highway.”

Continue Reading