Even in the rain the Giant’s Causeway is spectacular: 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns locked together like a honeycomb and stretching out into the Irish Sea. Visiting on a wet day, as I did, you can peer through the mist and sense the mystery of the place, a scene of ancient myths and legends.
Volcanic Activity or the Work of a Giant?
According to tradition, the Causeway was built by a giant, Finn McCool, although the more prosaic explanation is that it was formed from solidified lava following a volcanic eruption several million years ago. However, whether a work of man or nature, the result is spellbinding and, situated as it is on the rugged and beautiful Northern Ireland coastline, it attracts visitors from around the world.
Don’t be fooled by the name, though. The “giant” in the title refers to the mythical builder and not to the size of the Causeway. I was happily snapping away at the rocks when a disappointed-sounding American lady came up to me and said, “Is that the Giant’s Causeway?” But what it lacks in size it makes up for in extent: apart from the Causeway itself there are many other volcanic structures to be seen. Millions of years of weathering have fashioned the rocks into familiar shapes, so that you will encounter The Organ, The Giant’s Boot and a whole host of others.
Flora and Fauna of the Causeway Area
The site is full of walking trails of varying levels of difficulty, from shore level walks to steeper cliff top sections, allowing you to access the more remote stones (there is a shuttle bus from the Visitor Centre to the Causeway for those who do not wish to walk). This is a National Nature Reserve as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the whole of this coastline is an excellent place for spotting birds and plantlife. Look out for seabirds such as fulmars, guillemots and razorbills, and peer into the gaps between rocks for a startling variety of flowering plants.
Before you leave make sure that you spend some time in the child friendly Visitor Centre, which has some fascinating displays about the science and history of the area.
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is about 2 miles from the village of Bushmills. It can be reached by car, and Park and Ride facilities are available at Bushmills at certain times of year. There are also regular bus services but hardy visitors may choose to arrive on foot (via the Causeway Coast Way) or by bicycle (using the National Cycle Network).