The Giant's Causeway


One of Ireland's many stunning natural wonders is the Giant's Causeway, located on the island's northeast coast just a few miles from the town of Bushmills, in County Antrim. Like much of Irish lore, the Giant's Causeway is steeped in as much myth and legend as actual fact. Certainly, the causeway was known to hunter-gatherer tribes who inhabited these lands for millennia, but its modern discovery is credited to the Bishop of Derry in 1692. In academic circles, the debates ranged from it being built by men with tools, to it being made by natural forces, to even being created by a giant, named Finn McCool.

Geologic History
Although there are an abundance of tall tales, and myths describing colourful ways the Giant's Causeway came into being, the actual, natural history is a bit less exciting. The actual history is that the rock formations were created by a lava flow some 65 million years ago by molten basalt rising through a chalk bed, and then cooling and cracking to form the tall columns that make up the causeway. The cracking produced interesting geometric designs, and although most of the columns are six-sided, others have between four and eight sides. The rapid cooling that took place is likely the result of the lava coming into contact with water. At the time of this monument's creation, Ireland lie near the equator, shifting northward with the movement of the tectonic plates. The causeway's 40,000 columns range in height, with the tallest around 36 feet high.

These legends and myths purport that the causeway was built by an Irish giant named Finn McCool as a way to walk to Scotland in order to fight his Scottish nemesis, Bernandonner. The story goes that Finn fell asleep before he could cross to Scotland, and Bernandonner came across to Ireland looking for Finn. His wife, Oonaugh, upon seeing that the Scotsman was much larger than her husband, cleverly wrapped him up, and passed him off to Bernandonner as her baby. Upon seeing this enormous baby, the giant Scot, thinking that the father must indeed be a larger giant than he, went back to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went, to keep the giant Irishman from coming for him in Scotland. The legend made sense to people for many years, as there are similar formations across the water on the Scottish side.

These days, the Giant's Causeway is a National Natural Reserve, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and is the most popular tourist destination in Northern Ireland. The surrounding landscape is some of the most picturesque and stunning that exists in Ireland, and perhaps the world. Surrounded by pristine beaches, waters, and the occasional small fishing village, travelers to this part of the country will experience the magic, wonder, and timelessness of Ireland's natural beauty. Although remote and seemingly untouched, the park is tourist-friendly, with a few hotels, guest houses, hostels, and restaurants catering to visitors. Visitors looking for activities will find several golf courses available, as well as water sports, and riding, hiking, and biking trails open.