The new Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre has finally opened on the Causeway Coastal Route. Costing £18.5 million, the visitor's centre at the UNESCO World Heritage Site features interactive exhibitions, retail suits and a cafeteria, all located under an 'accessible grass roof'.
Designed by award-winning architects, Heneghan Peng, the building is a stylish, modern interpretation of the causeway's instantly recognisable interlocking hexagonal ballast columns, which have featured in films such as Hellboy II. The building is also eco and carbon friendly.
The Giant's Causeway takes its name from the famous Irish myth of Finn McCool (in Gaelic Fionn mac Cumhaill), a giant who is said to have constructed the Giant's Causeway as a bridge to Scotland, where he battled with fellow mythical giant, Benandonner.
The site was opened on Tuesday, June 3 at a ceremony attended by First and Deputy First Ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, as well as members of the National Trust, which owns the site.
Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland, said the new visitor attraction will be 'a major boost to the local economy', which will 'employ 150 local people and 30 volunteers'.
'As well as looking the part, we wanted to ensure the building was sustainably built using the latest technologies wherever possible,' added Thompson. 'Currently, 600,000 people visit the stones each year, and the new centre will enable us to increase capacity by 30 per cent.'
The centre features rejuvenated walkways around the coastal headland and Giant's Causeway, and provides visitors with a park and ride facility. Opening hours will extend during summer months, and family tickets cost £18.50.