The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, stunning in both sight and history, is a must-see for anyone planning a trip to Ireland.
The Giant’s Causeway, in County Antrim, is composed of tens of thousands of hexagonal columns, is one of Ireland’s most popular travel destinations, boasting nearly 1 million visitors a year.
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The Giant’s Causeway
The coastline of County Antrim in Northern Ireland is renowned for its scenic beauty, possibly the worlds best driving routes, the Causeway Coast Route, clinging to its edge. The Giant’s Causeway, sitting at the northern end, takes centrepiece as the crown’s unique jewel, known as the 8th Wonder of the World to many here in Ireland and beyond. The famous jagged promontory of around 40,000 neatly packed columns of hexagonal volcanic basalt columns created some 6 million years ago by a basaltic lava flow.
The Giant’s Causeway is a place where myth and science meet. Were the spectacular basalt columns formed through the rapid cooling of lava from an underwater volcano, or, as some may say, created by the legendary mythical Irish Giant Finn MacCool?
For centuries countless visitors have explored the Giant’s Causeway and marvelled at its unique rock formations. Situated on one of Worlds most spectacular coastlines, its unique rock formations have, for nearly sixty million years, stood as a natural rampart against the unbridled ferocity of the North Atlantic storms. The rugged symmetry of the columns never fails to intrigue and inspire our visitors. To stroll on the Giant’s Causeway is to voyage back in time.
Myths & Legends
It begins with a tale of two giants. One Irish, one Scottish.
The Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCoul to most people), gets wind one day that a great Scottish giant has challenged him to a fight. In most versions of the legend, Finn accepts the challenge, and builds a great causeway across the Northern Channel between (Northern) Ireland and Scotland so that the two giants can meet (without getting their feet wet).
But Finn then hears of how big and powerful the Scottish giant is, and decides to try and trick him instead. Finn has his wife Una disguise him as a baby and place him in a cradle. When the Scottish giant catches sight of Finn — believing Finn is out and that this huge baby belongs to him — he decides that Finn must indeed be a giant among giants and flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him.
Today, the remnants of this tale can be found in strangely-shaped basalt columns found both at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and identical columns disappearing into the sea off the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, it’s known simply as the Giant’s Causeway.
Planning your Giant’s Causeway trip
The Giant’s Causeway is located on the coast of Antrim in Northern Ireland. Thanks to the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, there’s no need to produce a passport or go through customs if traveling between the two.
There is no admission fee to walk the Giant’s Causeway, but there are fees to use the Visitor’s Center and their parking lots. Removed from the hustle and bustle of Ireland’s more populous areas, Giant’s Causeway is best reached by car or tour bus. Also, an option is the park and ride that runs from nearby Bushmills Village. From March to October, the rambler runs every 20 minutes.
Admission into the Visitor’s Center, which is wheelchair accessible, includes spots to learn, eat, and shop. There are discounts available if you book ahead online, or if you’re part of a group booking. There is no admission fee for children under five or members of the National Trust.
The weather in Ireland can be unpredictable at best, so be sure to check the forecast beforehand and dress accordingly! The Causeway’s Northern location makes it susceptible to cold and rainy, yet typical, Irish weather. If you plan on doing a more vigorous hike, make sure you have sturdy shoes and water to take along.
No matter the weather though, bring your camera as the stunning landscape provides for some photography you won’t be able to capture anywhere else in the world.
While you’re there
While the spectacular views are no doubt the star of the show, there’s plenty to do and see once you’ve arrived at Giant’s Causeway in Antrim.
Upon arriving, the Visitor’s Center can help guide your tour, or you can opt to explore on your own. Included in the price of admission to the Visitor’s Center is an outdoor audio guide and an orientation leaflet which is available in several languages. Park rangers are also available for a more personalized tour, though it’s such tours should be booked in advance.
The most popular activity at Giant’s Causeway is the several different walking routes lining the coastal area. All offer unparalleled views of the coastline at varying degrees of difficulty. The best part? The walking trails are charge no admission.
The National Trust outlines three sites to be on the lookout for during your walks: Giant’s Boot, The Wishing Chair, and The Camel. You’ll find The Giant’s Boot, allegedly left behind by mythical hero Finn McCool, near Port Noffer. Take a load off on The Wishing Chair, a naturally formed throne that has been sat on so often that it’s become smooth and shiny. Lastly, take a peek over the cliffs near Portnaboe to see where Finn McCool’s “camel” lays, but is in actuality a basaltic dike.
Perhaps lesser known is the wonderful selection of wildlife native to the area. Nature enthusiasts will find no shortage of things to explore and study along the coast. As a part of the National Trust, Giant’s Causeway receives funding to help protect and preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Anyone even slightly familiar with Giant’s Causeway will know how stunning of a photo opportunity the landscape provides. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, you’re sure to walk away with dazzling snapshots to remember your visit! The trick is to take your time exploring the area while you’re there – after all, it’s a once in a lifetime experience for most!
Where to Stay near the Giant’s Causeway
If you’re visiting the Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway coast, you have several options for where to stay:
Budget: Finn McCools Giant’s Causeway Hostel. Very cheap accommodation, around 18€ per night for a bed in a 6 beds dorm room. Voted #1 hostel in Northern Ireland by ratings on Hostelworld.com, it’s right next to the Giant’s Causeway, and it also comes with a free breakfast!
Comfy: Causeway Coast Independent Hostel. Comfy room for around 46€ per night, it comes with a private bathroom, free parking, free wifi, and a 1€ breakfast. It’s right in front of the sea, and a short 20 minutes drive to the Giant’s Causeway.
Luxury: Causeway Hotel. The best hotel in the area: spacious room, nice beds, private bathroom with care products, free parking, free (huge!) breakfast, balcony with a view and patio. Highly recommended, for around 170€ per night.
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