Stand in the footsteps of giants
Located in the North coast of Northern Ireland in County Antrim, about two miles north of Bushmills and 13 miles from Balllycastle, is the Giant’s Causeway, a striking landscape of basalt columns, whose origin is steeped in myth and legend. When exploring the Giant’s Causeway, before turning towards this magnificent landscape, a sign says, ‘An area of natural outstanding beauty’. True enough, as you walk down the path, the glimmering azure waters of the Irish sea on the left and the towering lush mountain that juts out into the sea on the right cannot fail to take your breath away. It is no surprise then that the 71-acre attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Giant’s Causeway was first discovered by the Bishop of Derry in 1692 although it was Sir Richard Bulkeley who reported to the Royal Society about the natural occurrence on Antrim’s northern coast. The Giant’s Causeway was then documented the following year. Soon after debates on its origin arose – whether it was a natural formation, formed by men or shaped by Finn McCool, a giant well known in Irish and Manx folklore. Perpetuated mostly by tour guides, legend has it that it was carved out by the mighty giant Finn McCool. But one popular version goes that as Finn was preparing a pathway in the sea towards Scotland to avoid getting his feet wet, he was told that the giant Cuhullin (another Irish hero) was on his way to fight him.
Realizing that he cannot beat Cuhullin, Finn connived with his wife Oona who dressed Finn as a baby and put him in a cradle. When Cuhullin arrived Oona tricked him into eating a griddle-cake with iron in it which chipped Cuhullin’s teeth. But when Oona showed Cuhullin that her baby (Finn in disguise) ate the griddle-cake without any problem, Cuhullin tried to feel Finn’s teeth to see how sharp they were. The cunning giant Finn saw his opportunity and quickly bit off Cuhullin’s little finger, stripping him of his power. Cuhullin then shrank to the size of an ordinary human and scampered in shame.
Another story goes that the Scottish giant Benandonner challenged Finn to a fight. When Benandonner came and saw the baby (Finn in disguise) in the cradle, he feared the baby’s father must be gigantic. He then fled, went back to Scotland and pulled down the causeway behind him so Finn could not follow. Similar basalt columns can be found on the rock islet shaped like a pyramid called ‘The Herdsman’ just off the Isle of Staffa in Scotland.
A more scientific theory is that the Giant’s Causeway was caused by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. The formation of the polygonal columns of layered basalt was due to intense volcanic activity that lasted for at least three periods resulting to the Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts.
Today the area is maintained by the National Trust. A state-of-the-art Visitor Centre reflecting the Giant’s Causeway’s stone pillars offers keepsakes and insights into the history of the area. Whether guests believe the Giant’s Causeway was formed by men, by nature, by giants or by God is entirely up to them. But the 40,000 basalt columns and the 71 acres of outstanding natural beauty should be enough to convince anyone that the Giant’s Causeway is undoubtedly a reflection of God’s glory. The Giant’s Causeway is definitely worth exploring. It deserves not just one visit but even a hundred and you’ll never get tired of it.
Operating hours: Open throughout the year from 9:30am, timings may change so please check before going
Admission fee: Online discounted tickets are: Adult GBP 7.50, Child GBP .50, Family GBP 18.50
How to get there: Traveling by car is by far the best way. Follow the B147 Causeway Road and soak in the scenery – narrow winding roads, cottage style houses, courtyard gardens, mazes of dry stone walls, rolling green hills, cattle grazing contentedly, white-knuckle cliffs, impressive rock formations and so much more. The Causeway is only two miles away from Bushmills village on County Antrim’s North Coast, 11 miles from Coleraine in County Londonderry and 13 miles from Ballycastle, a small town in County Antrim.
Public bus options are: Ulsterbus Service 172, Goldline Service 221, Causeway Rambler Service 402, Open Top Causeway Coast Service 177, Antrim Coaster Service 252. There’s even an incentive if you travel by bus – you’ll receive a ‘green discount’ at the Centre on arrival.