The  Giant’s Causeway  is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.  [1] [2]  It is also known as Clochán a Aifir  or  Clochán na bhFomhórach  in Irish  [3]  and  tha Giant Causey  in Ulster -Scots.  [4] 

It is located in County Antrim in the north east coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a national nature reserve in 1987 by the Ministry of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 survey of  Radio Times  readers, Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in United Kingdom.  [5]  The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, but there is also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The maximum is about 12 meters (39 feet) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 meters (92 feet) thick in places.

A large part of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is currently owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.  [6]  The rest of the site is owned by the Crown Estate, and a number of private landowners.


About 50 to 60 million years ago,  [1]  during the Paleocene Epoch, Antrim was the subject of intense volcanic activity, when viscous molten basalt pierced through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled, the contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a manner similar to the drying clay, with cracks propagating according mass was cooled, leaving pillar like structures, which are also broken horizontally in “biscuits”. In many cases, the horizontal fracture resulting in a bottom surface that is convex and the upper face of the lower segment is concave, which produce what is called “batch” leads. The size of the columns in the first place is determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools. [7]  The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a large volcanic plateau called Thulean plateau formed during the Paleocene.  [8]


According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Bena Donner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built footbridge across the North Channel, so that the two giants could meet.In one version of the story, Fionn down Bena Donner.  [9]  In another, Fionn hides from Bena Donner when he realizes that his enemy is much greater than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, hides Fionn as a baby and put him in a cradle.When Bena Donner sees the size of the “baby”, he expects that the father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fear, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.  [10] above sea level, are identical basalt columns (part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.  [11]

In total Irish mythology, is Fionn mac Cumhaill not a giant but a hero with supernatural abilities. In  Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish peasantry  (1888), it should be noted that, with time, “the pagan gods of Ireland […] grew less and less in the popular imagination, until they turn into fairies, pagan heroes became bigger and bigger until they turn into giants. ”  [12]  there are no surviving pre-Christian tales of the Giant’s Causeway, but it may have originally been associated with the Fomorians (  Fomhóraigh  ),  [13]  the Irish name Clochán na bhFomhóraigh  or  Clochán na bhFomhórach  means” stepping stones in  Fomhóraigh  “. The  Fomhóraigh  are a race of supernatural creatures of Irish mythology sometimes described as giants and that may have originally been part of a pre-Christian pantheon.  [14]


The discovery of the Giant’s Causeway was announced to the world in 1693 by the presentation of a paper to the Royal Society from Sir Richard Bulkeley, a Fellow of Trinity College, although discoverer had in fact been the Bishop of Derry who had visited the place a year earlier. The site gained international attention when Dublin artist Susanna Drury did watercolors of the year 1739; the Drury won the first award presented avRoyal Dublin Society in 1740 and was engraved in 1743.  [15]  In 1765, a record at the Causeway appeared in volume 12 of the French  Encyclopédie  , which was informed grave Drury work; engraving of the “East Prospect” itself appeared in a 1768 volume of plates published for  the Encyclopédie  .  [16]  In the caption to the plates French geologist Nicolas Desmarest proposed, for the first time in print, that such structures were volcanic origin.

The site first became popular among tourists in the nineteenth century, especially after the opening of the Giant’s Causeway Tramway, and only after the National Trust took over his care in the 1960s were some of the traces of commercialism away. Visitors can walk over basalt columns that are on the edge of the sea, a half mil walk from the entrance to the site.

Visit Centre

Causeway was without a permanent visitors’ center between 2000 and 2012, as previously, built in 1986, burned down in 2000.  [17]  Public funds have been earmarked to build a new center, and after an architectural competition, a proposal was accepted to build a new center, designed by Dublin architects Heneghan Peng, which would be put into the ground to reduce the impact on the landscape. A privately funded proposal received preliminary approval in 2007 by Environment Minister and DUP member Arlene Foster.  [18]  The public funds that had been allocated were frozen as a disagreement developed about the relationship between the private developer Seymour Sweeney and the DUP.  [19]  It was also discussed whether an individual interest should be allowed to take advantage of the location – given its cultural and economic importance and because it is largely owned by the National Trust. Coleraine Borough Council voted against the private plans, and for the benefit of a public development projects  [20]  and Moyle similar signaled dissatisfaction and gave the land on which the former visitor center stood for the National Trust. This gave the Trust control of both the Causeway and surrounding land. Ultimately, Mr. Sweeney dropped a legal challenge to the publicly funded plan.  [21]

The new visitor center was opened by the first minister Peter Robinson and Deputy Prime Minister, Martin McGuinness, in July 2012,  [22]  has with funding raised from the National Trust, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Heritage Lottery Fund and public donations.  [23]  Since its inception, the new visitor center gathered very mixed reviews from those who visit the Causeway to their pricing, design, content and placement across the causeway walk descent.  [24]

There was some controversy about the content of some exhibits in the visitor center, which refers to the Young Earth Creationist given the age of the Earth.  [25] [26]  Although these inclusions were welcomed by the chairman of the Northern Irish Protestant group, the Caleb Foundation,  [27 ]  National Trust stated that the inclusions formed only a small part of the exhibition and the Trust “fully supports the scientific explanation for the creation of the stones 60 million years ago.”  [28]  an online campaign to remove creationist materials launched in 2012, and after this, Trust conducted a review and concluded that they should be amended to have the scientific explanation of the footbridge origin as the main focus. Creationist explanations still mentioned, but presented as a traditional belief in some religious communities, rather than a competing explanation for Causeway origin.  [29] 

Notable features

Some of the structures in the area, after having been the subject of several million years of weathering, similar objects, such as  Organ  and  Giant boot structures. Other features include many reddish, weathered low columns known as  Giants Eyes  , created by the displacement of basalt boulders; the Shepherd footsteps  ; the  honeycomb  ; the  giant harp  ; the  chimneys  ; the Giant Gate  and  Camel hump  .

Flora and fauna

The area is a haven for seabirds fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank, guillemots and razorbills, while the weathered rock formations host a number of rare and unusual plants, including sea Spleenwort, hare’s foot tooth, vernal squill, sea fescue and frog orchid.

A stromatolite colonies report is available at the Giants Causeway in October 2011 -. A rare find as stromatolites are more common in warmer water with higher content of salt solution than that found by the road  [30]

similar structures

Main article: List of places with column articulated volcanics

Although the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway are impressive, they are not unique. Basalt Pillars is a common volcanic feature, and they occur at many scales (because rapid cooling produces smaller columns).

railway access

The Belfast-Derry course run by Northern Ireland Railways connects to Coleraine and along Coleraine-Portrush branch line to Portrush. Local Ulsterbus provide connections to railway stations. It is a beautiful walk 7 miles from Portrush together Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway.


  1. ^ Jump up to: ab “Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast ‘. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  2. Jump up ^ Jack Challoner, John Farndon, Rodney Walshaw (2004).Rocks, minerals and the Changing earth. South Water. p. 19.
  3. Jump up ^  “Clochán a Aifir / Giant’s Causeway – placental Database of Ireland ‘.Placen Commission. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  4. Jump up ^ The crack: Yin giant leap for mankind  newsletter  .Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  5. Jump up ^ Report survey results Retrieved 10 December 2006.
  6. Jump up ^  “Giant’s Causeway Northern Ireland still Top Attraction” (Press release). Northern Ireland Tourist Board. August 18, 2008. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved March 19, 2009.
  7. Jump up ^  “The University of Toronto (2008, December 25). Mystery of hexagonal column formations “.
  8. Jump up ^ Geoffroy, Laurent; Berg, Françoise; Angelier, Jacques (September 1996). “Brittle tectonism in relation to PALEOGENE development of Thulean / NE Atlantic domain: a study in Ulster”.Geological Journal.  31 (3) :. 259-269 doi: 10.1002 / (SICI) 1099-1034 (199,609) 31: 3 <259 :: AID-GJ711> 3.0.CO, 2-8. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
  9. Jump up ^ “The Giant’s Causeway.”  The Dublin Penny Journal  , issue 5 (1832), p.33
  10. Jump up ^ Jones, Richard.  Myths and legends in the UK and Ireland  .New Holland Publishers, 2006. p.131
  11. Jump up ^ formation of basalt columns / pseudocrystals
  12. Jump up ^ “giants.”  Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish peasantry  (1888)
  13. Jump up ^ Lyle, Paul.  Between rocks and hard places: Discovering Ireland’s northern landscapes  . The Stationery Office, 2010. p.3
  14. Jump up ^ Monaghan, Patricia.  The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore  .Infobase Publishing, 2004. p.198
  15. Jump up ^ Arnold,  Irish art  , p. 62.
  16. Jump up ^ “Susanna Drury, Causeway and the Encyclopédie, 1768”ämtat 14 March 2007.
  17. Jump up ^ BBC News – Study Causeway blaze – 30 April, 2000
  18. Jump up ^ BBC News – Developers set to get the nod Causeway – 10 September 2007
  19. Jump up ^ BBC News – developers DUP link “irrelevant” – 11 September 2007
  20. Jump up ^ BBC News – Causeway must be public; advice – 12 September 2007
  21. Jump up ^ BBC News – Developers ends Causeway Challenge – May 2009
  22. Jump up ^ Maguire, Anna (5 July 2012). “Causeway Visitors Centre: A great leap forward?”. Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  23. Jump up ^  “Giants Causeway gets £ 9m Tourist contribution”. BBC. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  24. Jump up ^  “Giants Causeway Visitor Centre, TripAdvisor”. TripAdvisor.15 September 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  25. Jump up ^  “National Trust in the Giant’s Causeway creationism row”.The autonomous. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  26. Jump up ^  “Causeway center provides creation view”. U TV. July 4, 2012.Hämtat5 July 2012.
  27. Jump up ^  “Online conference calls to remove the creation of the exhibition at the Giant’s Causeway.” BBC Northern Ireland. July 5, 2012.Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  28. Jump up ^  “Trust Causeway creationism row”. Irish Independent. July 5, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  29. Jump up ^ confidence, change the Causeway center “Creationist” exhibition  BBC News  October 3, 2012 (retrieved November 30, 2012)
  30. Jump up ^ stromatolite colonies found in the Giant’s Causeway, BBC News. 14 October 2011.