Visitors have been amazed by the Giants Causeway and its majesty for centuries. It is a magnificent coastline with very unique rock formations. Having formed over millennia, these formations have stood against the strength of the Atlantic and its storms. The symmetrical aspects of the rugged basalt columns always intrigue and inspire those who come to see it. It is a voyage into the past to stroll along the Giants Causeway, where you’ll be taken to the folklore embedded in the history of the land or the ferocity of the volcanic age.
For those visiting, there is a center at the Giants Causeway that opened in 1986. The Causeway Center includes a souvenir shop, a presentation, accommodation booking, Bureau De Change, and tourist information offices. The National Trust is the caretakers of the Causeway and they also oversee the National Trust Shop as well as Tea Rooms. There are buses from the center to the Causeway that run while the center is open. This is designed to make it so that all guests don’t have to worry and they can enjoy their visit to the Causeway.
The Visitor Center at the Giant's Causeway. (Chris Hill / Tourism Ireland)
The Giants Causeway sees approximately 300,000 tourists each year. They are catered to by the center to get the most enjoyment and intrigue their interest in the Causeway for hopefully many visits to come.
The Giant's Causeway visitor center was given an award for their excellence as a best tourist place to visit. CIE Tours International gave the award in 2007. There is a new center now that was designed by Heneghan Peng. It opened in July 2012. There have been approximately 300,000 visitors representing 150 countries. It has also received awards for its sustainability and sensitive architecture.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY
The Giant's Causeway, c. 1890. (Library of Congress / Flickr)
In 1693, there was a claim the Royal Society paper that Sir Richard Bulkeley discovered the amazing phenomenon of the Giants Causeway. However, it was the Bishop of Derry a year earlier who had actually discovered it. In 1697 drawings were created of this natural curiosity that was on the coast of north eastern Ireland.
There was an argument as to whether the Causeway had been created by a giant or by men with chisels and picks, or possibly by nature. No one had seen anything like it before in the 17th century. A woman named Susanna Drury went there for months in 1740. She drew the beautiful Causeway ensuring that it was noted. In 1771 a man named Demarest, a Frenchman, announced that the Causeway was created by volcanic activity.
In November 1986, the Giant’s Causeway became a World Heritage site. It appears on both the natural and cultural site list. It is only one of the 25 places to get this status. It meets UNESCO’s criteria for showing Earth’s evolutionary history during the tertiary epoch. It also contains superlative and rare natural phenomena. There is also the fact that it contains the Girona wreck.
In Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is at the food of basalt cliffs of the sea coast on the plateau called Antrim. There are 40,000 columns of black basalt that can be seen going out into the sea water. This has inspired many legends. One is of giants walking in large stride over the sea to Scotland. The studies done on the Giants Causeway over the past three hundred years have contributed greatly to Earth science.
THE GEOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY
(Rossographer / Geograph Ireland)
Antrim experienced a lot of volcanic activity sixty million years ago. Molten rock came up through geological fissures and the bed of chalk formed the lava plateau. This dramatic cliff is what forms the coastline of the Causeway. Large fissures that lava flowed through can be seen as drank rock bands that cut down faces of the cliff and go out to the ocean. The Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts were the three different periods of volcanic activity that created these flows.
The columns are formed by the Middle Basalts rocks. This rapid cooling of lava made them contract and then caused variations in cooling that made the structured, hexagonal columns.
The Inter Basaltic Bed was formed by weathering of the low Basalts. There is some reddish rock that can be seen there. The “giants eyes” are nuggets of basalt in circular formations created by this same weathering.
Though they appear uniform, there are actually several different formations in the Giant's Causeway, including the Camel’s Hump, the Harp, the Chimney Stacks, and the Organ.
THE WILDLIFE OF THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY
There are many seabirds that frequent the area. These are the razorbill, redshank guillemot, shag, cormorant, fulmar, and petrel. Elder duck, rock pipits, and wagtails also explore the shore.
The National Trust has recorded and made an inventory of the interesting and rare plants that have survived despite all the people visiting the area. These are vernal squill, frog orchid, sea fescue, sea spleenwort, and hare’s foot. This makes the Giant’s Causeway a wonderful place for botanists.
Whether you are interested in plants, wildlife, or the views, the Giants Causeway has something for everyone to explore and enjoy.
THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY WALKS
(Rossographer / Geograph Ireland)
The causeway can be approached in two different ways. You can reach it by the road by walking or the Ulsterbus. These buses are accessible to the disabled. There is also a longer walk that follows the pathway on the cliff to Shepherd’s Steps. This is about two miles.
The Organ to Reostan
You can see the cliff columns of the Organ if you take the low path that goes from the Shepherds Steps or the Giants Causeway. Port Reostan is also on the path. The gate that is there is the end of the low path. You’ll see the “Giant’s Eye’s” which are holes in the iron ore layer (which is reddish.) The path is about two miles.
You’ll walk the cliff on the upper path West, which goes past the Runkerry House and the Causeway Hotel. There are gates and steps here. If you are with a dog, please keep it on a lead. You’ll see Donegal, Portrush and view bays and cliffs. You’ll want to return by the inland route which can be done taking the old track to the Visitor Center. This path changes to grass and soil with a small road at the finish of its 2.5-mile length.
At the end of the little parking lot, the small road below the Visitors center is a route. This follows the old tram track until you reach a metal bridge over River Bush. The way is marked to a bridge at the mouth of the river. You’ll have to continue uphill to get to the parking lot at Portballintrae. The path is sandy and grass covered by the river. This is about 1.2 miles. You can follow the path of the Causeway Coast continuing West from Portballintrae.
Portballintrae by Old Track
This is a long walk among the tops of the cliffs. The footpath is quite narrow and there are surfaces of both soil and grass and when wet it can be slippery. The scenery is spectacular including the “Girona” wreck sight at the Port-na-Spaniagh. This is about five miles. You can continue on the Causeway Coast path and you’ll reach Dunseverick Castle. Road B146 takes you back to the Visitors Center, which is about 2.8 miles.
There has been an impression made in music and film by the Giant’s Causeway. It is on the cover of “House of the Holy” Led Zeppelin album released in 1973.
In the 2008 film Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, released in 2011, hidden deep in the underground of the Causeway are the Angel of Death and his deadly army.
“Game of Thrones” has filmed all over Northern Ireland, including the Giants Causeway.
The visitor center has a ton of local produce and in the gift shop, there are arts and crafts. There are nik naks, shortbread, art, fudge, and jams, all in one place made by the locals. There is a sense of pride here by the Irish with the wide range of homegrown talent and products.
The tourists do of course come to see the stones but they are also amazed by the delicacies at the location as well. It adds to the Northern Ireland experience.
When I visited the area, I stayed at the Causeway Hotel, which is run by the National Trust. The rooms are larger than you would expect and provided the luxuries you’d think a hotel should have, such as bathroom supplies, an iron, television, closet as well as tea and coffee making essentials. The beds are comfortable. There is a small patio with amazing views of the area.
There is a relaxed atmosphere in the hotel bar, and the restaurant has exceptional dining. The staff are attentive but not overly so, which can ruin your meal.
(Tony Pleavin / Tourism Ireland)
There are many tourists of all nationalities taking in the view in this corner of Northern Ireland. Every day countries like the United States, China, Canada, India, New Zealand, and Australia are represented here.
The North Coast of Ireland is becoming more on a traveler's radar. This area will only attract more nationalities and they will all be welcomed.
This is a unique place on the whole Ireland island. The causeway and areas surrounding have the most amazing scenery that honestly will really do something for your Instagram account and your photo collection in general. There are also great walking routes. You’ll feel fit and healthy with a stunning backdrop to show off!