Where is the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway – in Irish called, Clochán an Aifir or sometimes Clochán na bhFomhórach – is a remarkable natural phenomenon found off the north east coast of Northern Ireland.
What is it?
As well as being the most visited tourist attraction in Northern Ireland since the nineteenth century, the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. This remarkable causeway is a series of about 40,000 interlocking polygonal basalt columns, each one approximately 45cms in diameter and sticking up out of the sea forming a type of pavement. The surreal pavement runs from the base of the cliffs and disappears into the sea just off the Antrim Plateau. This plateau – the largest remaining lava plateau in Europe – covers c. 3,800 km2.
How Did it Get There?
Legend has it that this causeway was built by the famous Irish warrior Fionn MacCumhaill (Finn McCool) as a walkway from Northern Ireland to Scotland. One of the legends tells of the Wishing Chair – a rock formation in the Middle Causeway – this was reputedly built for Fionn when he was a child. They say if you make a wish while sitting here it will definitely be granted.
The legends about the formation of the Causeway hold that Fionn built the causeway so he could walk to Scotland to fight the giant Benandonner. However, Fionn was exhausted after building the causeway and fell asleep. As he slept, Fionn’s wife – Oonagh – concerned about the size differential between her husband and the giant – covered him with a blanket so that he looked like an infant. When Benandonner came to fight Fionn he was frightened as he thought Fionn was a baby and figured if the baby was that big, Fionn must be huge! Benandonner retreated back to Scotland, pulling up some of the causeway so that Fionn couldn’t follow.
Entertaining as these legends undoubtedly are, there is better evidence that the causeway was actually formed by prolonged volcanic activity c. 50-60 million years ago during the Tertiary period.
What Will You Find There?
As well as being an area of spectacular geological beauty the Giant’s Causeway also has important and varied natural habitats that offer an exciting variety of plants and wildlife. In addition, The Chimneys – a number of columns, separated from the shore by erosion and right beside the Causeway – is the wreck site of part of the Spanish Armada. This means the area is also a protected nautical archaeological site. Treasures and artefacts which were recovered here in 1967 and 1969, are now conserved and on display in the Ulster Museum.
There are lots of ways to take a Giants Causeway tour from Belfast:
- By car – About an hour and a half from Belfast.
- By Bus or train – from anywhere on the island to Coleraine – about 16 kms away, or Portrush c. just 12 kms away. The Causeway is very close to the town of Bushmills and from here the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Steam Railway runs to just 200 metres from the entrance.
Thomas Edwards has been an international traveller since the early ‘80s and has widely covered Europe, the USA and as far afield as Thailand, Hong Kong and China. He has written as both a business, individual and family traveller and a language or two has given him the opportunity to engage with people to a greater degree.