Northern Ireland is famous for its rugged wind swept coast, and the best known spot on the Antrim Coast is the fabled Giants Causeway. Learn more about the origins of the Causeway, its legends and the best way to get there when you next visit the country.
Origins of The Giants Causeway
The causeway consists of 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns and they’re quite a sight to behold. Throughout history, inhabitants of Ireland have marvelled at the unusual coastal feature and two legends have evolved to explain the origins of the Causeway—both centred on a 54 foot giant named Finn McCool.
One legend tells us that Finn hurled great chunks of land into the water, forming the causeway, because he wanted to make a bridge to Scotland so he could reach his love. The other version holds that Finn built the bridge so that he could reach his enemy, the Scottish giant Benandonner and fight him.
Fun as those legends are, geologists have revealed the real origins of the Causeway. Sixty million years ago, volcanic activity forced molten basalt to the surface. As the basalt cooled it contracted and cracked, much as mud cracks as it dries, and the familiar appearance of the causeway columns was the incredible result.
Visiting the Giants Causeway
The Giants Causeway is a UNESCO World heritage Site run by The National Trust and it’s free to visit all year round, although if you pay to enter the visitors centre you can make use of an audio tour giving you all of the rich history of the site.
As well as walking over the Causeway stones, visitors can explore a number of hiking trails along the coast, find the Giants Boot – a huge boot shaped stone that is said to be the boot lost by Finn McCool as he fled from Benandonner – sit on a natural throne formed from stone called the Wishing Chair, discover The Camel, the legendary steed of the giant, and tackle the Shepherds Steps, 167 steps descending from the cliff top.
Another attraction at the site is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which spans a chasm between the mainland and a small island. At 90 feet high, the bridge isn’t for the faint hearted.
How to Get There
The Giants Causeway is located on the northern tip of Northern Ireland and good transport links exist to this world famous landmark.
Following a direct (and inland) route from Belfast along the M2 takes around one hour 20 minutes, but the nicest way to travel to the Causeway is via the scenic coastal route with Allen’s Tours.
Beginning in Belfast your guided tour journeys along one of the prettiest coastal routes in Ireland, along the way you’ll see Glenarm Castle, Carnlough Harbour, Ballycastle, and the quaint coastal town of Ballintoy. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you’ll be thrilled to visit the Larrybane Quarry which was the season two site of Renly Baratheon’s camp. The tour also makes a stop at Carrickfergus Castle and gives you ample time to wander around the 12th century ramparts and walls.
Joining one of these daily tours saves you from a long drive on unfamiliar roads and lets you relax and enjoy the scenery, and on the way back to Belfast you’ll get the opportunity for a well-deserved nap so that you arrive back in the city refreshed and ready for an evening’s dining and entertainment.
The Giants Causeway makes a fantastic day out for young and old alike, so on your next visit to Ireland be sure to add a tour to your itinerary. You’ll be surrounded by breath-taking coastal beauty, an ancient and thrilling landscape, and the age-old fantastical myth of Finn McCool.