The Giants Causeway
Ireland’s foremost natural tourist attraction
The Giant’s Causeway is a world heritage site and Ireland’s foremost natural tourist attraction. Famous for its 37,000 large stone pillars, the causeway was formed 60 million years ago by molten lava cooling and shrinking as it came in contact with the atmosphere. The same vast volcanic eruption also formed the Antrim Plateau.
Legend, however, tells that the Giant’s Causeway was constructed by the great Irish giant, Finn MacCool, to be used as stepping stones to Scotland.
The regular hexagonal rock formations are bluish black in colour, with a hint of red from iron oxide. Each pillar is individually distinct and could be removed intact. Although most have the standard six sides, some have three, four, or even seven. Only one pillar has eight sides. Known as the ‘Keystone’, some believe if it were removed the whole causeway would collapse. Famous formations include the Wishing Chair, the Wishing Well, the Giant’s Organ, the Giant’s Granny, Lord Antrim’s Parlour, and the Honeycomb.
Within the causeway’s National Trust nature reserve, two pathways run between the visitor centre, at Causeway Head, and Hamilton’s Seat near Whitepark Bay. The lower path follows the coastline, while the clifftop path provides spectacular views of the Amphitheatre and Chimney Pots formations.
Port-na-Spaniagh, the site where the Spanish Armada galleon Girona sank in 1588, can also be clearly seen. Undetected for 380 years, the Girona was finally discovered by Robert Stenuit in 1967 and contained the most valuable treasure ever found in an Armada wreck. The bounty included 400 gold and 750 silver coins, pendants, rings and cameos inset with rubies and pearls, eight solid gold chains, silver forks and spoons, an anchor, cannons and cannon balls. Most of these items are on permanent display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
A short distance from the visitor centre is the Causeway School Museum, which replicates a 1920s classroom complete with inkwells, old pens, and toys such as spinning tops, skipping ropes and glass marbles.
The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills’ Railway runs from the causeway into Bushmills town, following the historic trackbed of the world’s first hydroelectric narrow-gauge tramway