The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland is a rare gem. When you visit the Northern Ireland, in a single day you can fall in love with these island’s views a thousand times over.
The Gian’t Causeway, is only a few kilometers from the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (read Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge: Guide To Visit). It too is protected and safeguarded by the National Trust and is a unique natural beauty.
As many of you may know having read some of my previous articles, I am not a big fan of cultural tourism (pass me that phrase), I prefer the sights (not surprisingly, I like the road trips). I like to stand open-mouthed in front of natural beauty. At the Gian’t Causeway, the mouth remains wide open.
What is the Giant’s Causeway?
Like all places with mystical character, there are scientific explanations and popular explanations. Let us begin by describing the opinion of science.
The Giant’s Causeway: scientific explanation
The Giant’s Causeway is a large expanse of about 40,000 basalt columns stretching out into the sea.
How did they form? Millions of years ago, due to movements of the earth’s crust, a rift was created west of present-day Britain. Molten basalt emerged from the seafloor. After settling, due to rapid cooling from air and sea water, it rapidly solidified, forming the columns that have made the Giant’s Causeway famous.
In 1986, this natural paradise was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited sights in all of Ireland.
Myths and legends about the Giant’s Causeway: the popular explanation
When nature comes up with something magical and unimaginable, humans tend to give it otherworldly connotations that often result in legends and folk tales. It’s a little difficult to happen now, but in the past it was much more common behavior.
From that time the legend passed from word to word, right up to the present day. Such is the case with the Giant’s Causeway and its two giants Fionn mac Cumhaill, the Irish giant and Benandonner, the Scottish one.
Fionn is in dispute with Benandonner who threatens Ireland. To reach him and end the quarrel, using basalt rocks he creates a kind of path, the causeway in fact, to the Scottish coast.
Once in Scotland, Fionn realizes that his rival is tremendously imposing and therefore quickly returns home. At this point it is Benandonner who wants to reach the Irish coast, but once he arrives there he finds not Fionn but a giant disguised as a child. Fionn’s wife claims he is their son.
Benandonner, frightened by the size of the little giant, believes that his father may be even more imposing than he is and flees in retreat, destroying the pavement created by Fion.
Like any self-respecting legend, the versions are never unambiguous. One claims that Fionn falls asleep during the crossing and his wife covers him with a cloth to make him look like a child. Another says that Fionn is laid in a cradle. Still another that Fionn creates the present Giant’s Causeway to reach his beloved in Scotland. In short, legends abound.
Conformation of the basalt rocks of the Giant’s Causeway
The 40,000 basalt columns are unmistakable. Along the way they become more and more visible, and what from a distance looks like a simple horizon of rocks gradually becomes a unique panorama.
The Giant’s Causeway is basically divided into 3 zones characterized by the different height of the columns relative to the sea. A staircase in the round (that’s the feeling, steps everywhere) formed by “flat” rocks with mostly hexagonal bases (although there are some pentagonal and some with more sides). Seen from above, the Giant’s Causeway resembles a huge beehive.
Giant’s Causeway: how to get there and visit it
Regardless of the popular or the scientific version, the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is something incredible that you cannot miss in a road trip itinerary in Ireland.
If you follow the directions on Google Maps, you will find yourself at the visitor center parking lot. This is a paid parking lot that is connected to the entrance of the Giant’s Causeway.
Note: the Giant’s Causeway is NOT a paid parking lot. The parking lot and visitor center are.
As a result, you can safely visit this spectacular place in Ireland without necessarily having to spend money. Just park even at the little village of Bushmill and then take a bus (Bus Eireann) towards Giant’s, or park at some permitted place and walk a piece of the way.
There is a whole trail on the Causeway Coast that ends right at Giant’s Causeway. By the way, if you are planning a trip to Ireland and need advice on how to approach left-hand drive, this might be for you -> Driving left: 10 tips for not going anxious
Route between the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway
First, as I wrote in the post on the tips for traveling in Ireland, the suggestion is to visit the Giant’s Causeway during less crowded times such as spring or early fall. It is priceless to be able to enjoy this spectacle without having to struggle through the thousands of selfies per second that will surround you during peak season.
Also, again to avoid crowding, but also to enjoy special colors, I recommend going either early in the morning or at sunset.
For this reason, it might be a great idea to sleep in the nearest location -> FIND your hotel in Bushmills.
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway
Starting from the visitor center, the route could be considered almost circular. It takes about 2 to 3 hours for the complete walking tour. At first the path descends to the sea and in about 15 minutes (without stopping) takes you to the first section of basalt columns.
From here, you have two options to return: follow the path and “climb” up the mountain behind you by taking a parallel but more scenic path than the previous one, or board the minibus that shuttles between the visitor center and the Giant’s Causeway for £2 each.
Price with entrance from the visitor center: if you choose to park and use the visitor center facilities, the cost is £12.5 for adults and £6.25 for children. The visitor center is open from 9 am to 7 pm in July and August, until 5 pm between November and February, and until 6 pm in the remaining months.
If you buy a ticket: you will also get included an audio-guide that will activate along the way and explain the history of Finn and many other interesting facts related to these basalt formations.
Various precautions: beware that these are rocks that can be really slippery in places. Use common sense and caution.