Giant’s Causeway – the basalt columns on Ireland’s coast

By Stef Zisovska
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Giant’s Causeway – the basalt columns on Ireland’s coast

Stef Zisovska
 
Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Author: code poet - CC BY-SA 2.0
Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Author: code poet - CC BY-SA 2.0
 
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The Giant’s Causeway is an area of basalt columns located in the northern part of Northern Ireland’s coastline. It’s in Antrim County, just three miles from the town of Bushmills. This World Heritage site is a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. In 1987, it was established as a national nature reserve protected by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. The giant stones create a path that you can walk on, stepping from one column to another until they finally disappear under water. Most of the columns have six sides, though there are some with five, six, seven or even eight. The tallest column is approximately 35 feet high.

According to the legends, this majestic natural wonder was built by the Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. He was challenged to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner, so he built the causeway as a meeting point for the two. There is a version of the story where Fionn ends up defeated because Benandonner was much bigger than him. The other side of the story says that Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes he’ll lose the fight with the bigger opponent. Fionn’s wife decided to disguise him as a baby. When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he got scared and destroyed the causeway so the giant father can’t follow him.

The Chimney Stacks. Author: David A. Victor – CC BY-SA 3.0
The Chimney Stacks. Author: David A. Victor – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Giant’s Causeway formed around 50 to 60 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch. A series of intense volcanic events produced the basalt lava that formed the columns. The lava was forced through cracks in the chalk beds in the area to form a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau. It contracted and fractured as it cooled into the distinctive hexagonal shapes that we can see today, and erosion of the surrounding rocks left the mysterious looking basalt columns.

The Giant’s Causeway area contains a number of basalt objects that are millions of years old. These features can be visited today and you’ll see features such as the Giant’s Eyes which are created by the displacement of basalt boulders. Shepherd’s Steps, the Honeycomb, the Giant’s Harp, the Chimney Stacks, the Giant’s Gate and the Camel’s Hump are just some of the other incredible volcanic creations that you can see here.

The Giant’s Boot. Author: Kdhenrik – CC BY-SA 3.0
The Giant’s Boot. Author: Kdhenrik – CC BY-SA 3.0

But the area is not only about rocks, columns, and basalt. The Giant’s Causeway is a seabird paradise where you can observe fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank, guillemot and razorbill. The columns host a variety of sea plants, too, such as sea spleenwort, trefoil, vernal squill, sea fescue and frog orchid.

There are many ways to access the Giant’s Causeway. If you prefer to go by train, then you should get on a train in Belfast or Londonderry and get to Coleraine. From there change to a bus connection. Getting there by bus is easier because there are more lines available, Ulsterbus Service 172, Goldline Service 221, Causeway Rambler Service 402, Open Top Causeway Coast Service 177, and Antrim Coaster Service 252. You can also go by car, cycle Route 93 of the National Cycle Network or walk the 33 mile stretch of the Giant’s Causeway trail network.

Giant’s Causeway at sunset. Author: Chmee2 – CC BY 3.0
Giant’s Causeway at sunset. Author: Chmee2 – CC BY 3.0

The opening hours in October are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from November to December you can visit the columns starting 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Yet one more of mother nature’s wonders that every serious traveler should visit, the Giant’s Causeway awaits for the curious eyes of adventurers from all around the world. Living in a world as beautiful as ours and not traveling is almost a sin. If you can’t afford to travel overseas, then at least get out there and explore your own country. Good luck!

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