I was shocked as the view changed from the rugged coast line of Ireland to the geological wonder of Giant’s Causeway before my very eyes. I had driven to Northern Ireland as part of a whirlwind road trip around the Isle of Ireland. I truly felt like I had stepped into the land of Giants.
Giant’s Causeway is located in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. The site is owned by National Trust and the Crown Estate. It is was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. arrived at the brand new visitor center shortly after it opened for the day. My goal was to take the first tour of the morning.
I walked into the visitor center and realized I made a critical mistake. I had forgotten to get some English pounds when I crossed over from the Republic of Ireland. My forgetful ness turned into a non-issue as the visitor center accepts credit cards, Euros, Pounds, and US dollars.
I was one of three guests in the center and the only one who signed up for the tour. I was off on a private tour of Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway is a 1/2 mile walk from the visitor center. There are two ways to get down. One is to walk and the other is to pay for the shuttle bus.
My guide and I walked the short trail as she told me the history of the site. The former visitor center had burned down in 2000 and the replacement didn’t open until 2012. The architect has the building built into the side of a hill to minimize the impact the building would have on the scenery.
As we walked down, the landscape morphed as she told me the legend of the giant Finn McCool. Finn McCool built a causeway between the North Channel that separates Ireland and Scotland. Directly opposite, Giant’s Causeway is Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa. Finn built the causeway to accept a challenge by the Scottish giant Benandonner. When Finn arrived on Staffa, he found the Bennandonner was one of the largest giants. In fright, Finn ran back across the causeway. With the help of his wife, Oonagh, Finn dressed as a baby and hid in a cradle. When Benadonner arrives, he found Oonagh caring for a large baby. Benadonner took one look at this massive baby and concluded that his father must be a giant among giants. Benadonner ran back across the causeway destroying it as he went.
Fingal’s Cave has the same hexagonal formations as Giant’s Causeway. The hexagonal formations at Giant’s Causeway range in size. The tallest are 39 ft high and the solidified lava cliff is 92 ft thick. The causeway extends out in to the ocean about a half mile according to my guide. It is possible they were once connected with the Fingal’s Cave and the ocean has worn them away.
Fun Fact: The Isle of Staffa has a couple of whiskey distillery whereas Northern Ireland has one. Northern Ireland likes to claim it took Staffa several tries to get it right vs Northern Ireland only need one try.
Our tour concluded at the short hiking paths that lead further along the coast. My guide and I stopped to talk at a fun rock formation that looks like a giant’s shoe. According to legend, it is Finn McCool and he dropped it when he was running away.
My guide left me to hike out along the northern Irish coast. I hiked as far I could which was to the next cove. The rest of the trail was closed for repairs. I would have loved to hike out further.
On my return, I hiked up the cliff face overlooking the causeway and circled back to visitor center. The first part of the trail was steep and a bit of an uphill climb. Once I was at the top of the ridge, I really enjoyed the view. It was well worth the short climb.
I walked back down to the columns so I could further explore the columns. I walked out as far as the safety officer would allow and enjoyed watching the waves break over the columns. I wasn’t willing to risk going any further because the water in the area is cold and getting swept out to sea wouldn’t be fun.