The Giant's Causeway
Tied into the legendary faerie lore with being created by Finn Mac Cool as a causeway to walk between Ireland and Scotland, the area is rich in myths and legends. A World Heritage site (UNESCO 1986), operated by the National Trust, the Giant's Causeway consists of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were caused by the result of a ancient volcanic eruption 50-60 million years ago. Intense volcanic activity caused highly fluid molten basalt to intrude through the chalk beds forming an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled quickly, contraction began with some in vertical directions that reduced the flow thickness, and horizontal contraction that was accommodated by cracking through the flow varying by lava speed forming the columns. In the heart of County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, the site is not very far from the infamous village of Bushmills. The site was discovered in 1693. It is considered to be the fourth natural wonder in the United Kingdom. Each of the hexagonal columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot onward into the sea where they surface again into Scotland. Some of the columns reach heights upwards of 36 feet high. Most of the columns are hexagonal, though some have four, five, seven, and eight sides. Areas of solidified lava in the cliffs are up to 28 meters thick in some places. The area is infamous for the columns, stepping stones, myths, legends, the Giant's Boot, and the Organ, the Giant's Eyes, the Shepherd's Steps, the Honeycomb, the Giant's Harp, the Chimney Stacks, the Giant's Gate, the Camel's Hump, as well as a panoramic seaside view and beaches. Rating 5 stars out of 5.
Where to put the Causeway?
Well, its address is Bushmills so this seemed to be the best place.
I'd always wanted to see the Giant's Causeway and, to be honest, it was my primary reason for visiting N Ireland. Whilst not feeling quite as William Thackeray did in 1842:
'I've travelled a hundred and fifty miles to see that!'%'
it was, to be honest, not quite the experience I'd hoped for.
The scenery is stunning, the geology fascinating......but the hordes of visitors (including more than one squealing party of teenagers-from-another-continent) did detract somewhat. I'd like to visit again, but most definitely out of season and would advise you, if possible, to do the same.
The Causeway has been promoted as a tourist attraction since the late 1600s, so it's not really surprising it is the 'must-see' for visitors to this part of the island of Ireland. Parking is very expensive at 6GBP per car.....if I'd been staying in the area I'd probably have take advantage of the local bus service (open-topped in the summer season). But I gritted my teeth and paid up, though absolutely refused to park on the grass with a hire car when there were plenty of spaces on the hard surface.
I bet, out of season when there are no car park chaps around, the cost of parking is nowhere near 6GBP. But there we go....and the National Trust does do a lot of good with its money.
So, onwards to the shoreline. Yes, the geology is amazing and unmissable simply because of its uniqueness. Had I felt less tired (early start, long drive, warm and humid weather) I'd have followed the cliffs around and walked back along the shore......I'll do that next time. But this time I took the bus down and up; being a 'proper tourist', for once!
Memo to self: try not to stray from the 'only visit major sites out-of-season' rule, even if you know the weather out of season will be absolutely horrid!