Walk in the footsteps of giants and experience the wonder of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mist and Legend
It was likely molten lava, cooled into some 40,000 hexagonals of dark stone steps, a few million years ago, which gave us our famous basalt columns. But we prefer the other version of events: the one about a Celtic warrior who got too big for his boots and went a-knockin’ on the wrong giant’s island. Legend goes that Finn MacCool built the basalt highway to Scotland to challenge rival giant, Benandonner, to a fight. But Finn’s wide-eyed glimpse of the enormous Scot gives sent him scurrying back to Ireland and to his quick-witted wife, Oonagh. As Benandonner thundered down the highway after him, Oonagh disguised the quavering Finn as an infant. “Don’t wake the baby” she scolded the giant Scot as he burst in the door. “If that’s the kid, I don’t want to meet the father”, thinks Benandonner, turning tail for Scotland and ripping up the basalt paving stones behind him. We reckon Finn’s oversized luck makes a more lively explanation than a geography lesson, but that’s just us.
A welcome for visitors
The Visitor Centre at the Giant’s Causeway is open all year round (exluding Christmas day and New Year’s Day). It’s located about 1km from the Causeway, and offers a shuttle-bus service to the stones. If you fancy taking in the views at your leisure, you’re also free to stroll to the main attraction, too. The Visitor Centre has a shop, as well as a tearoom, which is open from middle of March to the middle of November. The Causeway itself is free to visit at all times – and is often said to be at its most breathtaking at sunrise or sunset, when the sea mists roll in.
On the doorstep
It’s no giant leap to find more natural attractions studding coastline. A rewarding walk from the Causeway will have you tip-toeing along the vertigo-inducing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, where a sip of the strong stuff at Bushmills Distillery should naturally follow. Still in the neighbourhood, White Park Bay is the beach the postcards go on holiday to see. Head west from the Causeway for slideshow of natural sights including the cliff-perched ruins of Dunluce Castle, Roman-inspired Mussenden Temple and eventually the City of Londonderry. Just as tempting is going east, towards the Glens of Antrim and a ferry-fledged detour to Rathlin Island. Or there’s the best option of the lot; see them all on our Causeway Coastal Route 5-day itinerary.
The Visitor Centre
The big news is that giant plans are well underway for the Giant’s Causeway state-of-the-art visitor centre – a huge £18.5 million project that will open its doors in September 2012. Finally matching the site in epicness, the centre promises architectural awesomeness (a grass roof blending into the environment), new walking trails, fact-packed information points and on-site orientation. The occasion will not go by without a chunk of celebration either, as a dedicated art exhibition has been commissioned for the occasion, and it falls right in the middle of Northern Ireland’s year-long party; NI 2012. Until the opening, the Causeway Hotel next to the site will provide tourist info, while a park and ride service will bring you to the Causeway from nearby Bushmills.