Located on the north east coast of County Antrim, and without a doubt one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, is the Giants Causeway. Now managed by the National Trust, it attracts in the region of half a million visitors each year. It’s only about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Belfast and it’s a great idea for a day trip. Find out more about this unique and magnificent World Heritage Site.
How was the Giant’s Causeway formed?
Since 1693 the Giant’s Causeway has been a popular tourist attraction. This was when Trinity College graduate Sir Richard Bulkeley acknowledged it in a paper to the Royal Society.
It was formed as a result of major volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The Giants Causeway is composed of about 40,000 basalt columns, which spectacularly protrude the Atlantic Ocean. Add to this the spectacular coastal and cliff landscapes, with roaring waves crashing against the basalt rock and you’ll understand why so many people are drawn to it.
We are told that the magnificent basalt pillars were created when the lava from the extensive volcanic activity cooled in haste as it was flushed into the waters of the ocean. The make up of the area around the Causeway is testimony to the many volcanic eruptions, which shaped the north Antrim coastline, during this period. The columns are mostly hexagonal in shape, and are drawn in stepping stone fashion from the cliff edge to the seabed. The tallest stones are about 12 meters high and the lava that makes up the cliffs in the area is nearly 30 meters thick!
Geologists have their own theory as to what created the majestic Giant’s Causeway, however local folklore gives its own version as to the making of this impressive and unique landscape. A figure of Celtic Mythology is the Irish Giant, Fionn McCool. Local legend is that he created the Causeway so that he could cross the Irish Sea to the Island of Straffa, off the coast of Scotland, to engage in battle with a rival giant, Benadoner. Adding to the legend are some of the magnificent and enigmatic rock creations in the area such as the Giant’s Boot, the Wishing Chair and the Organ!
The west coast of Scotland, directly across from the Causeway, has a similar landscape and adds credence to the legend and local folklore. You may not know that the Causeway area is a haven for sea faring birdlife. Popular birds in the area are guillemots, razorbill and petrels. In the sheltered water areas you can find birdlife such as wagtails and eider duck.
What to do in the area…
There’s so much to do in the Giants Causeway area. Not only can you enjoy the walks on the hexagonal stones, and marvel at the majestic scenery including chimneystack rock creations from the flowing lava, the greater area of the Causeway is also ideal fro walking. There’s a route called the Causeway Coast Path which, when ventured, takes you along the east for 12 miles to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. There are information panels on display in the area along your route, telling you all you need to know about the geography of the area, and other scientific information!
Along the Causeway Coast Path you’ll see the famous ruins of Dunseverick Castle. This Castle was destroyed by Cromwellian troops in the 17th century. There’s a small picnic area and car park there. You will also see these ruins if you take the Causeway Cliff Path.
The tour of the Giants Causeway area will inevitably lead you to beautiful White Park Way, a majestic sandy beach that was formed in the middle of two headlands on the coast. It’s quite secluded and a perfect place to relax along your Coastal Path Walk!
The Coastal Path will then lead you to the famous Larrybane / Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. In the past three centuries, this rope bridge has been the only way for local fishermen to reach Carrick-a-Rede Island. Crossing this bridge is not for the faint hearted and you will need to be comfortable with great heights! The adjacent area is known as Larrybane and is home to spectacular white limestone cliffs, which you can see as you cross the bridge. There are also some prehistoric forts in the area. This area is the end of the Giants Causeway Coast Path, and on a clear day you can see Rathlin Island to the North and the coast of Scotland to the east.
You will savour this visit to a natural wonder of Northern Ireland, and you can walk tall in the footsteps of the Giants of Celtic Mythology across the basalt columns which are at the sea edge, just a half mile walk from the site entrance. Unfortunately, the Giant’s Causeway has been without a permanent Visitor Centre since 2000, when the last building burnt down. However, there are plans to create a new visitor centre, in conjunction with the National Trust and Public Development.
Find out more about the Giant’s Causeway.
How to get here…
The Giants Causeway is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes drive by car from Belfast. If you take the B146 to Bushmills, the Causeway is located just 2 miles from the village.
You can also take the train from Belfast or Derry to Coleraine, and drive from there.
By bus: take the Ulsterbus number 252 from Belfast, which covers the Antrim Glens area. In the summertime, number 376 runs between Bushmills and the Rope Bridge area at Carrick-a-Rede.
Check out the Ulsterbus timetable.
If you have any comments or questions we’d be delighted to hear from you.