Three historic settings approved as wedding venues in Mid and East Antrim area

Three visitor attractions in Mid and East Antrim were approved for weddings and civil ceremonies at a meeting of the borough council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening.

The Gobbins in Islandmagee, Andrew Jackson Cottage and US Rangers Museum in Boneybefore, Carrickfergus and Arthur Cottage in Cullybackey will be available to hire.

Hire of the cottages will be priced between £450 and £550 and The Gobbins at between £400 and £500.

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When the pricing difference was queried by Bannside Ulster Unionist councillor Alderman William McNeilly, he was told by a council officer that the cottages will be more expensive as they are “opened on demand” whereas there is a “level of staffing” at The Gobbins.

The Gobbins

“Prices have been worked out taking this into consideration,” the officer explained..

Braid DUP Councillor Beth Adger asked: “Why is Arthur Cottage hardly every open in Cullybackey. The place is hardly ever open for them to go to now schools are out and about. They are there for people to see, not a closed door. I think they should open a bit more for the public.”

The officer indicated that recruitment is taking place for more staff.

“We hope to be able to open the cottages more and schools encouraged to visit,” she noted.

The Andrew Jackson Cottage.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly commented: “I think this is a very good use of our venues. They are very popular with people in the area. We would like people to use these places for ceremonies. This is providing an income for council as well.

Bannside DUP councillor Alderman Tommy Nicholl revealed that a member of the Arthur family had queried the closure of Arthur Cottage which is the ancestral home of  Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America.

Ald Nichoill said he was “concerned” about Arthur Cottage.

“I would suggest that Arthur Cottage in the last number of months has been neglected by this council and it is about time we have a change regarding that. We need assets like Arthur Cottage and the Jackson cottage, assets that should be more to the fore than they are now.   No amount of platitudes will satisfy me as far as this cottage is concerned.”

He went on to say that tourism in Mid and East Antrim is “not just around the coast” but also Slemish, Arthur Cottage and the Andrew Jackson Centre.

“If we are going to do tourism effectively, we do it as one package. Our tourism is not first class for the reasons I have said.”

Of the 18,150 visitors to Mid and East Antrim during the first six months of this year, The Gobbins was the most popular with 14,252 visitors with the remainder at Carrickfergus Castle, US Rangers Museum and Andrew Jackson Centre and Arthur Cottage, according to a report presented to councillors at their December meeting.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner asked if other visitors who are paying “quite an amount of money” may not be able to use the viewing platform at The Gobbins or transport if these are in use for a wedding.

The officer indicated that these would be timed so it would not affect the “visitor side of things” and would “run seamlessly together”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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