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Historic quarries vying to be top tourist sites

The owners of two idle quarries have spent more than seven years lobbying local council to transform both into tourist destinations, with one said to potentially rival Belfast’s Titanic Attraction.

Magheramorne Quarry – owned by Lafarge Holcim and located in Larne, Northern Ireland – is better known as “The Wall” and the Wildling village of Hardhome on the hit fantasy television series Game of Thrones, while the Rubislaw Quarry, in Aberdeen, Scotland is one of the largest man-made pits in Europe.

Before Game of Thrones began filming, Magheramorne Quarry was earmarked as a nature conservation, leisure and housing reserve. In 2009, its owner received outline planning permission to redevelop the quarry and cement works to incorporate an eco-friendly village and cycling and scuba diving centres. However, no plans have been confirmed about capitalising on its Game of Thrones fame.

Similarly, Rubislaw Quarry co-owner and Aberdeen businessman Hugh Black has spent the past seven years lobbying Aberdeen City Council to transform the pit into an inland diving spot and visitor centre that celebrates and capitalises on Aberdeen’s granite heritage.

Idling plans

As previously reported by Quarry, Magheramorne Quarry was a working limestone quarry that is located alongside the Irish Sea. The quarry first opened in the 19th century and its peak period for limestone extraction was in the 19th and 20th centuries; its limestone cement plant eventually ceased operation in 1980.

Commenting on the quarry’s potential, British politician Sammy Wilson told The Belfast Telegraph: “Titanic Belfast is a good example of the interest which a film project can create. There is easily the same level of interest in Game of Thrones, as there is in the Titanic Attraction, and Game of Thrones also has an international following.

“We want to develop a tourist trail leading to the Magheramorne Quarry on the coast. It would be negligent not to try to capitalise on that, and we need local government and the Department for the Economy to try to ensure that it is capitalised on.”

Testing the waters

Capitalising on its own potential, Rubislaw Quarry recently welcomed a squad of experienced triathletes to take a dip in the 142m deep man-made pit.

Although unsupervised swimming in the quarry is prohibited, special dispensation was given to the publicity stunt that was arranged by the quarry’s co-owner Hugh Black.

“The swimmers who took part had a fantastic experience at one of Aberdeen’s most famous and iconic landmarks, and this highlights the potential for safe recreational activity at this historical site,” Black explained.

One of the triathletes, Mike Adams, described the chance to swim in the quarry as “incredible … it is such a unique location and to be part of the first swim is really special.

“Rubislaw Quarry itself is so unique and such an important part of Aberdeen’s history.

“It would be great to see the visitor centre move ahead and more events happening around the site in the future.”

Rubislaw Quarry was first opened in 1740 and for more than 200 years supplied an estimated six million tonnes of granite to Aberdeen’s buildings – giving the city the moniker ‘The Granite City’ – as well as London’s Waterloo Bridge, the terrace of the British Houses of Parliament and the Forth Bridge, near Edinburgh. It ceased production in 1971.

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