The Giant’s Causeway (Clochán na bhFómharach in Gaelic) is undoubtedly the number one attraction for any traveller to Northern Ireland. Located in County Antrim, it is one of the most impressive sites in the world! And for good reason! It is a gigantic geological formation made up of more than 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, some of which are up to 12 metres high! Every year, millions of tourists flock here to admire its beauty. A must-see!
Before going into scientific explanations about the how and why of these formations, you should know that Giant’s Causeway is above all the cradle of an important Irish legend.
The local inhabitants are attached to it, and do not fail to evoke it with some amusement. Rather poetic, it deserves to be known!
It is said to have taken place in ancient times. At that time, 2 giants live opposite each other: the first (named Finn MacCool) is in Ireland, and the second (Benandonner) is in Scotland.
The 2 giants maintain an unbounded rivalry, and throw many insults and other bird names at each other. Each one wants to fight, but there is no boat big enough to allow both of them to cross the sea to go and confront each other.
One day, the Scottish giant goes too far: he insults Finn MacCool’s wife. For the latter, it’s too much: he decides to build a road across the sea to reach his sworn enemy. To do so, he lays stones against each other… until he forms a gigantic pavement (which corresponds to the Giant’s Causeway).
Nevertheless, once there, Finn McCool is scared by the Scottish giant, who is twice his size. He immediately returns to Ireland and tells his wife about his misadventure.
The latter, very cunning, has an idea, and disguises her husband as an infant. When Benandonner arrives at their house and sees the “baby”, he gets scared. He tells himself that if the child is that big, he prefers not to meet the father!
Frightened, the Scottish giant turns back. He returns to Scotland and to make sure that Finn MacCool cannot follow him, he destroys the road behind him.
In Ireland, only the stones of the causeway that are now the Giant’s Causeway remain.
For over three hundred years, this amusing story has been told to Irish children to explain the origin of the site.
So much for the legend… But of course, it doesn’t sound like a scientific explanation.
Far from the stories of giants, the truth is said to have its source in the movements of plate tectonics more than 50 million years ago.
At that time, the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate would have started to move away, opening the Earth’s crust and spreading lava on the surface. This lava would then have cooled down so quickly, that it would have immediately taken hexagonal shapes. Almost perfect shapes, all tightly welded together.
Today there are more than 40,000 columns on the site. This unique formation has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to walk the columns and admire the beauty and strength of Irish nature.
You don’t need a guide to visit the Giant’s Causeway: nature puts everything at your disposal, for our greatest pleasure! In order not to miss a single crumb of this sumptuous landscape, here is a small glimpse of the things not to be missed under any circumstances…
Generally speaking, the Giant’s Causeway is divided into 3 zones:
This is the largest part of the site. It starts on the shore, at the foot of the cliffs. At first sight, it appears as a disordered set of gigantic pillars. On the other hand, closer to the water, one can easily guess the shape of a road for giants because, by advancing into the sea, the hexagonal slabs level out to form a kind of paved path 20 to 30 meters wide. At low tide, it is even possible to follow this stone path for a few hundred metres until it gradually disappears under the waves, as if it were continuing towards Scotland.
Please note that there are supervisors in charge of the preservation of the site and your safety. Also, avoid venturing into dangerous areas.
These are grouped along the Great Causeway. They look more like mounds than roads. Although the columns close to the water are wet and very slippery, it is easy to climb from one to the other because their tops are flat. However, be careful not to fall!
Over the years, people have named some of these rock formations. Among them, we can note:
Opened on 3 July 2012, the Chaussée des Géants site now has a brand new Information Centre for visitors. Impossible to miss with its modern architecture, which is reminiscent of the geometry of the site’s basalt columns, the Giant’s Causeway finally has a Visitor Centre that lives up to its natural beauty.
Equipped with a coffee shop, and a souvenir shop, the building has an exhibition room, which takes stock of the extraordinary geological formation of the Giant’s Causeway.
What’s more, the creation of this brand new information centre has also enabled the National Trust to improve the paths along the coastline. Orientation points and information panels have been set up everywhere to better guide visitors, without altering the beauty of the landscape.
Web site: Go to the website