Our final main stop on the coach tour was the Giant’s Causeway, one of the most famous sites in the whole of Ireland, and indeed the British Isles…
The Giant’s Causeway
The causeway is a series of hexagonal basalt columns, which have the odd look of having been hand made, the way they stack and interlock.
There are two explanation however:
1) The Legend
The story goes that the Giant’s Causeway was created by a giant named Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn MacCool) so that he could meet another giant in Scotland, named Benandonner, who had challenged him to a fight. In the most widely told version of the story, the Benandonner started to cross over to Northern Ireland. When Fionn saw just how big the giant was, he panicked. His wife, Una, tucked him into a pram and pretends that he is Fionn’s son. When Benandonner arrives and sees the baby, he is shocked at the size of it, and thinks that if the baby is this big then his father must be a super giant. Benandonner fled in terror, and destroyed the causeway behind him as he went. There are identical columns in Scotland at the other end of the supposed crossing, in Fingal’s Cave, on the island of Staffa.
2) Natural Lava
The official, scientific explanation of the columns existence is that around 50 or 60 million years ago, there was a lot of volcanic activity in the region, and the basalt pushed through the chalk beds to form a plateau of lava. The lava cooled rapidly, and as it did so it caused the basalt to contract, and the whole plateau fractured creating the columns in their distinctive hexagonal shape.
There are many different heights of column, depending on how quickly the lava cooled and set. There are some 40,000 columns in the area.
Here is a close up view of the hexagonal shaped columns. They really do look like they have been deliberately stacked, but they are completely natural. We could explore the whole expanse of the causeway, and the sun came out as we arrived, making it even more magical.
The tallest part of the causeway is in the middle of the main body, and really shows the extent of the columns. We climbed it from the other side, which is a more gentler gradient, and got a spectacular view over the rest of the causeway.
So there we have it, the Giant’s Causeway in all its glory. We had a fantastic day on the coach tour, and I can honestly say the causeway is the most exciting place we have been so far, having finally made it off the mainland of Great Britain and off for new adventures, and how fitting it was that our first trip to Ireland would include its most famous landmark.
The Causeway is around a 20-30 minute walk down hill from the car park, much like the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and at the top of the hill with the car park is a brand new visitor centre built by the National Trust. There is no charge to visit the causeway but if you want to take full advantage of the centre, with the gift shop and history of the causeway then there is a small fee to pay on entry.
We had a good few hours at the Causeway, longer than originally expected as we were supposed to be visiting the Bushmills Distillery Gift Shop on route but it closed early that day so we came straight to the causeway instead.
We made our way back to the coach, and set off, but as it turned out there was one last treat in store for us…
The driver pulled up further down the coast, for a photo opportunity looking across at Dunluce Castle. It sits on a rock outcrop, over the sea itself. The earliest surviving parts of the current castle date back to at least 1513, when it was owned by the McQuillin family. A Scottish clan, Clan McDonald, took control of the castle in the 16th century after defeating them in battle. Later, the castle passed from owner to owner until 1690, after which it deteriorated.
There used to be an accompanying town, called Dunluce near the castle, as archaeological evidence found in 2011. The town was burnt down in 1641 during the Irish Uprising. The town was founded in the 17th century, and a lot of it is yet to be discovered.
Just behind the castle you can see County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.
We had one more day in Belfast after this, which we used to explore the city some more, and all our adventures in and around the city are covered as one in the Belfast post which can be found on the Northern Ireland page. At the end of that day we got the overnight ferry back to Birkenhead, and headed home.
So for this blog, our adventure in Ireland is at an end. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we did actually doing it.