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Niarbyl interpretation centre celebrates 100,000 visitors 19 September 2007

The combined café and visitor centre at Niarbyl celebrated its 100,000th visitor yesterday since reopening in 2005.

Betty HawesThe 100,000th visitor was Betty Hawes of Port Erin, who was visiting Niarbyl for a birthday celebration with her daughter Julie Hall of Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Betty was presented with a magnificent bouquet of flowers on arrival at the Niarbyl Café and Visitor Centre by Anthony Mingins, Café Manager and Nigel Dobson, Director of D’s Leisure Limited, Manx National Heritage’s catering partner at Niarbyl. They were also treated to a complimentary lunch.

Nigel Dobson said:

“When we started on this project with Manx National Heritage during the summer of 2005 there were undoubtedly some who wondered about the viability of a Café/Restaurant in a comparatively remote location. But 100,000 paying customers in just two years demonstrates the success not only of the superb restoration of the building but the quality of the food and service provided by my team. It is they who must take much of the credit.

Particularly pleasing from my point of view is the number of Manx residents who now routinely think a day out at Niarbyl is part of their regular social life and a ‘must visit’ location when family and friends visit the Island”.

The centre, run jointly by Manx National Heritage and Nigel & Marilyn Dobson, provides an introduction to one of the most beautiful and dramatic stretches of coastline in the Isle of Man, and has proved to be one of the Island’s most popular visitor attractions since it opened its doors to the public in September 2005.

The new Niarbyl Café and Visitor Centre was previously a private residence and was acquired for the Nation by Manx National Heritage in November 2004. A significant restoration project was undertaken by Manx National Heritage prior to opening the new Café & Visitor Centre, including car and coach parking facilities, enhancing access to the area and promoting the natural and cultural heritage of Niarbyl.

The Café and Visitor Centre provides a level of interpretation which was not previously available at Niarbyl including new interpretation panels on the area and a series of films exploring the historic landscape, abundant wildlife and the human stories from this magical stretch of countryside from Dalby westwards to the shoreline, it makes the ideal starting point for walkers wishing to make the most of the Island’s network of public footpaths and rights of way.

MNH Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson, who worked on the original project, revealed that the café was not a new idea! He commented:

“I wonder how many people know that there has actually been a visitor centre at Niarbyl for more than a 100 years, and that a café has stood on the present site almost continuously since the end of the First World War? The first café was in fact inside one of the cottages on the beach, and was part of the Island’s first folk museum which was established by a Mrs Clague. After the First World War, Niarbyl was so popular with visitors that the café was moved up the cliff so that more visitors could be accommodated”.

The cottages on the shoreline were also refurbished by MNH as part of the project, using techniques, materials and methods which were as historically accurate as possible.

Matthew continued:

“These cottages were once home to a number of fishing families with Niarbyl being quite an important fishing base in the 19th Century. It was also a stronghold of the Manx language with several native speakers living here in the early 20th Century. The area also had a crucial role in the Second World War, with much of the beach fenced of to visitors because an RAF radar listening post was established on nearby farmland. This dramatic history is explored in the café where visitors can also enjoy some first class refreshment.”

The Niarbyl Café and Visitor Centre is an extremely successful addition to the ‘Eating Out at the Story of Mann’ experience, which has grown in popularity over recent years with catering establishments now available at five Story of Mann attractions including the highly popular Sound Visitor Centre which opened in 2002, the Bayroom Restaurant at the Manx Museum, the newly refurbished Grove Conservatory Restaurant in Ramsey and the Village Tea Rooms at Cregneash, all of which provide a welcome range of services for visitors.

The Niarbyl Café and Visitor Centre is open for the enjoyment of visitors all year. During the summer months until 28th October it is open 7 days a week from 10am to 9pm; and during winter months Monday to Friday 11am to 3pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm. For bookings, enquiries (including special occasions) and evening booking information, the Niarbyl Café and Visitor Centre can be contacted on 843300.

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