17 Dec Exploring the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland; it was created by a volcano that left around 40,000 basalt columns which appear to rise up out of the sea. Originally I wasn’t too thrilled about visiting this area, but I figured we had to make a stop since we were so close, and I’m very glad we did. The area is beautiful and great to wander around for an afternoon or more; there are stunning cliffs and miles of hiking paths. I loved exploring the different shapes and views of the endless basalt columns as well as learning about the history of the area.
Myth and legend surround the creation of the causeway, and there are many different versions of the famous legend all featuring the giant, Finn McCool. In one such version, it is thought that Finn created the causeway as a path to fight the Scottish giant, Benandonner, who continuously taunted him from across the sea. When Finn realized how large Benandonner was, he decided that fighting might not be the best idea so he dressed up like a baby to fool the Scottish giant. When Benandonner saw how large the “baby” was, he could only think how large the father must be, and he quickly escaped along the causeway, destroying it in his path so Finn couldn’t follow. To this day, the causeway can be seen along both the Scottish and Northern Ireland coast, but the Northern Ireland side is much more famous.
The geological explanation of how the causeway came to be is much less entertaining. Around 50 to 60 million years ago, the volcanic activity in this area was very intense and created a lava plateau. When the lava was cooling, it contracted and fractured down into the plateau causing column like segments. The columns were also fractured horizontally into what are called biscuits and are what we see today. Whatever story you wish to believe, it is still a magical sight, and here is a mini photo tour to showcase the stunning rocks:
A brand new visitors center opened in 2012 and entry is €8.50 per person which includes on-site parking. If you don’t care about access to the visitor center you can park nearby and walk to the causeway to avoid the charge. However, inside the visitor center you will find a cafe, gift shop, restrooms, an exhibition exploring the Giant’s Causeway, and an audio guide featuring Finn the giant who tells you about his stories. For an additional charge you can take a shuttle to and from the stones if you don’t feel like or aren’t able to make the 1/2 mile walk from the visitor center.
Even with the gloomy weather, we really enjoyed our visit to the Giant’s Causeway. The sheer beauty and maze of octagonal stair like columns were mesmerizing and so much more stunning than I could have ever imagined. Looking at the various shapes of the columns was almost surreal; it seems crazy that such a large area of almost perfectly shaped rocks were created by cooling lava. I wish we would have had time to hike the trails surrounding the causeway–there are definitely some amazing views to be seen from the trails as well.
Have you been to the Giant’s Causeway? If so, did it live up to your expectations? If not, would you like to go?