Scientists believe that 60 million years ago volcanic eruptions caused lava to slowly ooze out of the earth. It cooled rapidly and contracted forming 40 thousand interlocking columns made of black basalt. Some are 39 feet high and are hexagonal in shape although some have up to ten sides.
This is the Giant’s Causeway, the eighth wonder of the world. In 1986 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
Of course legend has it that the causeway leading to Scotland, was built by the giant Finn McCool so he could walk across and fight the Scottish Giant, Benandonner. This backs up the geological ideas as similar stones can be seen at Fingal’s Cave and on the Isle of Staffa.
Because of the story of Finn, many of the rock formations have been given related names, for example Finn’s boot, the wishing chair, and the towering pillars of the pipe organ. A ‘camel’ lies at the bottom of the cliffs. It was said to be the only animal capable of carrying Finn across long distances. He was once alive but now is turned into stone!! Shepherd’s Steps, 167 of them, lead up to a cliff top trail – a climb not for the faint hearted. Coming down would be an easier and safer option.
Weathering has caused hollows to form in a number of the stones and some say that these are the giant’s eyes.
There is a charge when entering the Causeway through the Visitors’ Centre. Access is free when the roadway to the side of the Visitors’ Centre is used.
Once behind the Centre a small bus is available for those who don’t wish to walk down or climb back up the road leading to and from the stones.
The Visitors’ Centre was opened in 2012 at a cost of 18.5 million pounds and its design is very special in that it sits in perfect harmony with the surrounding terrain and causeway. The roof is planted with grasses similar to those found in the locality and which hide it from the coastal landscape.
Inside there is a café where lots of homemade products can be sampled. A shop sells souvenirs and handicrafts and an exhibition area has various ways of dealing with the history of the area, its flora and fauna and the formation of the hexagonal stones.
Information and maps are available and can be accessed in eleven different languages