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.
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.
“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.”
Iconic Athletics Track in Antrim renamed Northern Ireland Centenary Stadium
To mark the Northern Ireland Centenary, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has recently renamed Antrim Stadium to the Northern Ireland Centenary Stadium.
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Billy Webb, and Deputy Mayor Councillor Stephen Ross, unveiled the new name plaque at a rededication ceremony with local Councillors, members of the NI Centenary Working Group and local runners.
The stadium first opened in 1979 and the newly named Northern Ireland Centenary Stadium will carry with it all the history, events and achievements accomplished by the clubs and athletes over the years.
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey said, “I am delighted that we were able to include this special rededication of our athletic stadium in our programme of Centenary events. There have been a huge number of successful events at the stadium over the years, as well as athletic stars training here and succeeding in their sporting careers, thanks to the dedication of coaches and clubs. I know there will be many more success stories to come under the new Northern Ireland Centenary Stadium name”.
Opportunity for Students to go Stateside for the Summer
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is delighted to announce that applications are now open for the Sister Cities Student Exchange Programme 2022. This cross-community programme, which has been running since 2000, aims to provide Antrim and Newtownabbey’s young adults with an opportunity to travel to Gilbert, Arizona during the summer.
Two students will be selected to participate in the programme from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough. The first part of the programme involves the two students travelling to the USA to spend three weeks being home hosted by their matched student. They will be given a wonderful opportunity to learn about their hosts’ local cultures and customs in ways not available to a casual visitor.
At the end of the three weeks, the Gilbert students will return with our students to be home hosted in Antrim and Newtownabbey. During their stay, they will have a chance to closely experience a new culture and make lifelong friends by living with the family of their exchange student.
All travel expenses for the Programme will be covered by the Council, however students are expected to provide their own passports and spending money. Applications must be submitted by 10 January 2022.
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Billy Webb said “I am delighted that we are able to work with our sister city, Gilbert in Arizona again this year. This is a fabulous opportunity for our young adults to experience a new Country and culture, Right at the heart of the local community. I also look forward to welcoming students from Gilbert when they arrive to stay with one of our families next year. I am sure they will have a great time with so many exciting things to see and do in our Borough”.
If you or someone you know would like to take part in this exciting opportunity, visit here for more information, eligibility criteria and how to apply.