£5k horse continues to give treasure hunters the slip!

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A BRONZE horse worth £5,000 which has been buried somewhere along the north coast continues to prove elusive to treasure hunters.

A large-scale treasure hunt was launched last month for a trove worth thousands of pounds hidden somewhere between Ballycastle and Benone.

The hunt has been taking place amid some of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular scenery for the past couple of weeks and the prize of a precious £5,000 bronze horse has not yet been found.

Internet treasure hunt company “Treasure Pilgrim” has brought tourists from all over the world, including the United States, to the north coast, setting nine clues which unlock a 20-word secret message.

All nine clues can be solved remotely online – however the recovery of the buried treasure still requires visiting its secret hiding place.

Some of the clues caused instant frustration as each one is from a different code system and similar to those which appear in the Nicolas Cage film National Treasure.

Some 7,500 people are registered in the hunt while there have been 26,000 visitors to the website.

The mastermind behind this exciting puzzle is Coleraine businessman Stephen Todd, an avid fan of adventure games and archaeology.

He has been watching the treasure hunters searching high and low for the loot – and he said he was taking some satisfaction in the complexity of the riddle.

“It is gratifying because I designed it to be challenging,” he said.

“Some clever contestants actually unlocked the secret message and then spent fruitless hours trying to unravel its meaning while pacing up and down Castlerock Beach.

“The treasure is buried somewhere between Benone and Ballycastle, so you really have to know where to look.”

Mr Todd’s inspiration came from his favourite childhood book.

“I had an amazing book called Masquerade when I was 11,” he said.

“In the book its author Kit Williams revealed where a golden hare was buried somewhere in the UK. As a young boy this notion of real buried treasure thrilled me and it has stuck with me ever since.”

One of the frontrunners is a 13-year-old from Bushmills.

Lewis Dobbin has been keeping up with teachers, doctors and professional treasure hunters solving the cryptic clues

Mr Todd described the Dalriada pupil as “one of the quickest contestants so far”.

Lewis’s father Terence said the pair have been enjoying the process.

“At 5.45am on the morning the clues were first released I had a knock on the bedroom door and that was the start of it. Lewis has been very persistent, we got the nine clues and now we’re trying to work out the last one,” he said“It’s been very enjoyable, well put together, it really showcases the north coast and involves some of the most beautiful parts.”

The buried art horse was sourced from Gormley’s Fine Art Dealers. Artist April Young was commissioned to create the horse in bronze.

The competition will run until somebody finds the prize. A second event is already in development for Dublin, as well as one for London.

Anyone who thinks they could unravel the treasure map can pit their wits at www.treasurepilgrim.com