As I mentioned in my last post, my family and I went to the Giant’s Causeway with our tour group back in 2011. As was the case at Dunluce Castle, the views of Antrim’s rugged coastline were spectacular, though because of the Causeway’s nature, we were able to get a lot closer to the water’s edge.
The Giant’s Causeway is a modern day UNESCO World Heritage site, but its natural beauty has drawn in visitors for centuries. Its iconic hexagonal basalt stacks were formed by rapidly cooling lava 60 million years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the human imagination from coming up with other theories for their existence. Some of the first visitors believed it had to be the work of men armed with picks and chisels or even Finn McCool, giant and hero of the Fenian Myth Cycle.
Finn McCool is described in many different myths, but one of the first I heard was of his role in the Giant’s Causeway’s creation. The story goes that Finn and the Scottish giant Benadonner hated one another, and after another day of exchanging insults, Finn tore up chunks of land to build a stepping stone path to reach Benadonner. The latter quickly destroyed the path, separating the two countries once more and creating what we know today as the Giant’s Causeway. Interestingly enough, the same basalt pillars can be seen in Scotland, too, on the Isle of Staffa.
Finn’s folkloric touch on the landscape can be seen in the names of different formations too, from the Giant’s Boot to the Wishing Chair, and the story of his fight with Benadonner is commemorated with a sign post at the main site.
Of course, the Causeway also holds a special place in my heart due to a friendly argument my eldest sister and I still bring up every once in a while – whether or not to walk on the black rocks.
When our tour group arrived at the Causeway, we dispersed quickly. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but my sister and niece ended up well ahead of our parents and me, while the three of us took our time and kept pace with a few other people, taking in the sights and reading over the travel brochure. The brochure mainly served as a map, for anyone interested in pushing past the main site, but it also offered a warning – don’t walk on the slick black rocks, closest to the water’s edge. Signs along the path reiterated this – walking on the black rocks made it easy to slip and fall, possibly into the ocean’s hard surf.
Then one of the people in our makeshift group noticed two small pink dots, way off in the distance, right on the black rocks.
We jokingly pretended we didn’t know who those people could possibly be, though we knew right away from the raincoats it was my sister and niece. And soon enough they wandered back our way, joining us up on the path to the main site with a laugh about not seeing any signs warning about the black rocks, insisting the warnings just weren’t there.
Even with the warnings though, it ended up being perfectly fine to walk on the black rocks when we were at the Causeway. The sea wasn’t as rough as it could have been, and we were careful to watch our step whenever we did wander closer to the water’s edge. But it’s still a fun joke to bring up every now and then when we look back on the trip, especially since she still insists there were no signs.
Our time at the Giant’s Causeway felt all too short. We only had a few hours to explore and eat before getting back on the road, so we were confined to the main spread. Even then, I would have loved to spend more time walking along the stacks, just reveling in what nature can do.
My mom and I both want to visit Scotland someday, to see the Scottish side of the Causeway at the very least. By the sounds of it, if we went, we’d be in for a very different experience…
The Causeway itself is open from dawn to dusk daily and is free to visit on foot. However, if you wish to visit any of the facilities or park at the center, you will be charged an admission fee. This fee is £9 for adults and £4.50 for children, but discounts are available by either booking in advance or arriving by public transit. The visitor center itself opens at 9:00 am, with closing times varying by season.
A shuttle bus is also available on site, making runs between the main site and the visitor center. I personally recommend walking at least one way of the trip, both to enjoy a slower pace and to cut down on costs – it’s £1 per adult and 50 pence per child, each way.
Additional Links & Resources:
Discover Northern Ireland: Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway official guide
The Golden Book: Ireland, pages 105-107
Ireland.com: The Giant’s Causeway
Ireland Legends & Folklore, pages 34-35
The National Trust: Giant’s Causeway
The National Trust for Scotland: Staffa National Nature Reserve
Visit Scotland: Isle of Staffa