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31/05/2021

Mayor and Minister Officially Open £2.3million Gateway Visitor Centre

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. 

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.” 

For more information on the facilities in The Gateway Visitor Centre, visit www.antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/thegateway  



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