Enchanted Winter Garden prices for non-residents to almost double

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have approved a price increase which will almost double the entrance fee for out of town visitors to the borough’s Enchanted Winter Garden.
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The event is held in Antrim Castle Gardens in the run-up to Christmas. A report to Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s Community Planning Committee says last year it brought in £788,804 for the local authority. Of this sum, £81,539 was profit.

Seventy-four per cent of 123,388 visitors who attended live outside the borough. Four thousand people attended a “soft opening” event which was provided free of charge for community and voluntary groups in the borough.

Councillors were told the visitor figures were the highest since the event began in 2013. The festive event was free of charge for the first four years.

The Big Wheel was one of the attractions at the Enchanted Winter Garden in Antrim.The Big Wheel was one of the attractions at the Enchanted Winter Garden in Antrim.
The Big Wheel was one of the attractions at the Enchanted Winter Garden in Antrim.

The report says: “Although the 2022 Enchanted Winter Garden attracted record numbers of visitors and generated a healthy surplus, this was lower than in 2021 because of significant cost increases relating to fuel, infrastructure and performers’ fees. ”

In response, councillors have agreed a price rise for out of town visitors which will see entrance fees rise from £6 to £10 per adult, £4 to £7 per child and from £18 to £30 for a family of four, which the council believes has the potential to generate additional income of £180k.

Additional lighting of £50,000 has also been approved.

Last April, councillors were told profits from the high profile event during the next five years are required to help cover the cost of the newly-created ‘Clockwork Garden’ feature by celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin at Antrim Castle Gardens.

Similar Events

They have been advised price comparisons with other similar events show “non-resident prices of this level still ensure that the Enchanted Winter Garden has the lowest admission of all similar events across Northern Ireland”.

Councillors also heard feedback from the event, which was delivered over 19 nights during November and December, was “largely positive” and the “redesigned site layout removed many previous causes of queueing”.

Speaking at the Community Planning meeting, Deputy Mayor Councillor Leah Smyth, an Antrim Ulster Unionist representative, described it as “another fantastic event”.

Glengormley DUP Cllr Alison Bennington queried the number in attendance free of charge at the “soft opening”. She was advised it was a means of “giving something back to deserving members of the community”.

Antrim SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch said she welcomed the recommendation the cost of admission will remain unchanged for residents.

Cllr Lynch said it is a “wonderful event” and noted it was “well received” by the community groups that attended the “soft opening” which will also take place by invitation this year.

Glengormley DUP Cllr Paula Bradley also described it as a “wonderful event”.

Food Suppliers

She praised the selection and quality of the food available but questioned affordability highlighting the need to “reach out” to local food suppliers.

To address some “queue and crowding problems” for some of the most popular attractions like Santa’s Grotto and ‘The Grinch’, utilising more of the Antrim Castle Gardens estate to “alleviate further crowded pressure points without having to reduce overall visitor numbers” is being considered.

A Christmas food and craft market in Ulster Bar Corner in Antrim town centre for the duration of the Enchanted Winter Garden has also been approved.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter