Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

A tour to the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, involves stunning coastal scenery, honeycomb rocks and a tall tale about the giant, Finn McCool.

Walk along the County Antrim coastline
The walk to the Giant’s Causeway on the County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland is fabulous, with cliffs and bluffs jutting out into the angry sea. There’s a wealth of colours in the rocks, grass and trees, but it’s the huge collection of hexagonal stepping stones that make this a World Heritage site.
While the coastline is pretty cool from afar, it’s really only up close that the magic of the Giant’s Causeway reveals itself. There are thousands and thousands of these rock columns, all tessellated together as if in a sprawling honeycomb.

Hexagonal columns
Clambering over, and hopping from hexagon to hexagon is tremendous fun – a little like a giant version of an odd Japanese board game. There are around 40,000 of these columns. Not all are six-sided – some are five or eight – but it’s the sheer scale and setting that makes it. And, of course, yet another unlikely story – this time about the giant that made it.

How was the Giant’s Causeway made?
If you ask scientists, the Giant’s Causeway was formed during a period of intense volcanic activity. They claim that the molten basalt poured out through a bed of chalk, forming a lava plateau. When it cooled, it did so at varying rates, and thus the unusual column structure was created.
This, of course, is utter nonsense, and the real story goes as the locals tell it. A local giant called Finn McCool made the Causeway in order to make it over to Scotland, where he was spoiling for a fight with a rival giant.
Upon getting to Scotland, he noticed that his foe was much bigger so ran away back home. However, the Scottish giant got wind of this, and followed him over the Causeway to Ireland.

Fear of the giant baby
Luckily, McCool’s wife was considerably cleverer than he was, and dressed Finn up as a baby. After seeing the size of the baby, the Scottish giant was terrified. How big must the dad be? So he turned and fled, destroying the Causeway on the way so that he couldn’t be followed. And that’s true, that is.

Getting to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Nearest International Airport: Belfast City and Belfast International Airport are closest.

Using public transport: This isn’t really practical. It’s best to hire a car in Belfast, or join a tour. Allen’s Tours offers a relatively cheap daily coach trip up the Antrim Coast Road that includes the Giant’s Causeway, along with the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Carrickfergus Castle.

More information: Allen’s Tours

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