Skip to main content

The Giant’s Causeway Story

The hexagonal columns of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland slowly lowering into the sea below

Located in County Antrim on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway lies at the bottom of the basalt cliffs along the sea’s coast. Basalt rock is the result of rapidly cooling lava, and the Causeway is made up of approximately 40,000 of these hexagonal basalt columns. Formed roughly 50-60 million years ago, on a wet Wednesday afternoon in August, geologists have studied the fascinating formation for the last 300 years. The rock formations contain 3 sections in total but the Giant’s Causeway is the largest, and most famous!

It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, Ireland’s only one, and an Irish national nature reserve the following year. It is protected not only for its beauty but also because its cliffs, seashores, and grasslands are home to some 50 species of birds, as well as to more than 200 species of plants. The Causeway was previously occupied by humans during the 19th century but it’s subsequently uninhabited now. It does, however, attract some 300,000 tourists annually. In 2018, it was announced as Ireland’s most popular attraction, with the Titanic Belfast and Ulster Museum following closely in succession.

But this natural phenomenon not only attracts tourists to the area, it is also shrouded in Irish myth and legend. As the story goes, the rock formation is the remains of that left by a giant. According to legend, Finn MacCool, the famous Irish giant, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn accepted the Scotsman’s challenge and built a causeway across the channel to meet and fight.

This is where the story splits, depending on who you speak to. One version says Finn defeats Benandonner in an epic battle. In the other, Finn hides from the Scottish giant after he realises his enemy is much bigger than he is. Finn’s wife Oonagh decides to hide Finn in a cradle, disguised as a baby. When Benandonner sees the sheer size of the ‘baby’ in the cradle, he comes to the conclusion that if this was the size of the baby, Finn is a giant among giants and flees back to Scotland. Legend says Benandonner then destroys the causeway on his return so that the Irish ‘giant’ can’t chase him.

Benandonner is said to run back to the Isle of Staffa, where he calls the famous Fingal’s Cave home. The hexagonal basalt rock formation of the Giant’s Causeway is almost identical to that on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland. And it’s possible that because of the geological similarity the connection was made, and that’s how the legend of the Irish and Scottish giants fighting was born!

It’s no wonder why the Giant’s Causeway is such a popular visitors’ destination. Thousands of people a year click their cameras at Northern Ireland’s most visited location because of the unique pictures it offers. Take a trip to visit the Giant’s Causeway from Dublin and visit the nation’s capital Belfast. If you’re interested in visiting the Causeway but also want to see the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Collins Day Tours offer that too!

Top Places to Visit in Ireland Previous Article 5 Interesting Facts About Ireland Next Article