Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway is a spectacular rock formation on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. The site consists of some 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea. The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Understand

Myth

Popular mythology attributes the creation of the Causeway to an Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. To prove his superior strength and status, Fionn decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. As there was no boat large enough to carry huge Finn across the sea to confront Bennandonner, he built his own pathway of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. He then was able to walk across the sea without getting his feet wet.

When he crossed the sea, however, he saw just how large Benandonner was. He ran back to Ireland before Bennandonner saw him, but the causeway was built and Bennandonner came to fight. Fionn crawled into a crib and when Bennandonner came to the door to fight him, his wife told him not to wake the baby. Seeing just how large Fionn's "baby" was, Bennandonner grew afraid and ran back to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went to prevent Fionn following him.

Scientific explanation

The true explanation while not as colorful as the myths of yore is still quite interesting. Scientists now agree that about 60 million years ago a volcano let basalt come to or close to the surface that slowly cooled forming the polygon-shapes as the hot material contracted due to cooling. The hexagonal shape is most common as it is the most "efficient" way to "pack" material (just as it is in a beehive). Later erosion formed the current structure, as the basaltic material forming the pillars is more resistant to erosion than other material. Similar structures (though in less impressive locations) can be found throughout the world.

Get in

By bus

There is bus service during the summer this is the 402 causeway Rambler (which costs £6.00) Departs Coleraine Bus/Rail station at other times of the year from late September to the spring time you will have to use the 172 service that runs from Coleraine Bus/Rail centre to Ballycastle via the Giants causeway (timetable will be marked "Aird the nook Giants causeway") all public transport info can be found at www.translink.co.uk (click journey planner)

From Belfast there are day trips to the causeway which also include stops at Bushmills and the Glens of Antrim.

By car

From Belfast, follow the signs for the "Giant's Causeway Coastal Route" for a beautiful scenic route to the Causeway. It takes a longer (around 2 hours depending on traffic) but it is worth it for the views.

There is also the more direct route along the A26 from Belfast or the A2/A37 from Derry/ Londonderry if time is a factor.

By rail

The two locomotives Rory and Shane at Giant's Causeway railway station in 2011

A small railway line the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway from the village of Bushmillls to the train station near the site of the Giant's Causeway. The railway used three trains, two of which are steam trains. The route goes though Bushfoot Strand down, Crossing Bushfoot Golf Course and Portballintrae. (http://www.freewebs.com/giantscausewayrailway/)

Prices:-

Children under the age of 3 years are free.

Get around

Public transportation is scarce over the weekends, especially on Sundays after late September. Getting into Belfast, or even to the local towns and villages can be challenging.

Hiring a car, or making an advance note of a minicab company's phone number is recommended step to take.


Travellers should be prepared to walk long distances if they miss the daily bus that runs once in each direction on Sundays along the coast (towards Ballintoy/Ballycastle, bus route 172). While it might be worth considering this walk as the scenery alongside the road is neat, it is somewhat dangerous as along the villages and farms, public lighting is non-existent and often dogs are on the loose that are not welcoming towards tourists.

See

The 'Organ', an awesome sight further down the path from the causeway itself

The focal point of the area is, of course, the Giant's Causeway itself. There is no charge for visiting the causeway, although you will find that parking costs a little more than you would expect (circa £6). That being said, this is a free site (eg. no entry fee), so a car with four people works out quite reasonable. Cheaper still, check out the near-by Causeway railway carpark (circa £4) or park on the verge of the main road (free!)

Do

Once parked up or off the bus at the visitors centre, you will find there is actually a further road that gets you down to the Causeway. There is a bus service runs constantly back and forth between the visitors centre and the rocks themselves, but walking there will only take around 20 minutes and will give you chance to take in some more of the coastal scenery.

Feel free to pose for photos on the rock columns, but be aware that waves will be splashing up onto the rocks, meaning that you can be soaked by the sudden swells and waves, or you can lose your footing on the slippery rocks.

Buy

The National Trust operate a gift shop within the new visitor centre, selling the usual tourist goods at inflated prices. Entry into the shop is charged at £8.50/adult or £4.25/child. The new visitor centre does however boast limited onsite parking, a cafe, toilets and a few minor exhibits to justify the charge. It also accepts credit/debit card, euro and US dollar currency (if paying by note, returning change in pounds stirling).

There is also a small privately owned gift shop located just to the side of the new visitor centre, easily missed, offering similar goods and refreshments at a much more reasonable price.

There is no ATM on-site. The nearest one is to be found in Bushmills.

Eat

Check out Thyme&Co in Ballycastle just up the Road. Great for Frys and Lunches.

Drink


Sleep

There is the Bushmill's Inn (http://www.bushmillsinn.com/) which is very nice and strongly Irish themed. It is about 10 minutes drive from the causeway. Given Northern Irelands relatively small size, you may feel that you want to stay nearer to or in a city such as Belfast or Derry/Londonderry and then drive to the Causeway from there. This would give you a much wider choice of accommodation.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, December 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.