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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway

When I had made the decision to visit Northern Ireland, up at the top of my list of things I wanted to see was the Giant's Causeway. To me at least, the rock formations were so out of this world, they just fascinated.

I had a car and it was an easy and beautiful drive to the Causeway. A new Visitor's Centre was opened in 2012, a lovely facility and plenty of parking. The National Trust manage the Giant's Causeway so if you're a member it's free to enter. I'm a member of the Australian National Trust and they have a reciprocal agreement with the British National Trust so I was able to get free entry to the site. (I'm nice enough that when I'm travelling with other people we split the fee!) The Giant's Causeway is also an UNESCO World Heritage site.



Once through the Visitor's Centre you then walk down a path to the rock formations. There's also a small shuttle bus that will take you down for a fee.
I walked down and rode the bus back up!



The first interesting rock formation you come across is camel rock. The legend is that it's the giant Finn MacCool's camel. There are variations on the legend of how the causeway came to be built. Summarising, Finn MacCool the Irish giant was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandoner. The causeway was built so they could meet, the Scottish giant fled back to Scotland (here the stories differ) and along the way he destroyed the causeway so Finn MacCool couldn't follow him. The same rock formations can be found on the Scottish island of Staffa.

Nice legend but science is more pragmatic. The formations are interlocking basalt columns created in an ancient volcanic eruption.





Most of the columns are hexagonal, but there are also ones with four, five, seven or eight sides.






There's one section where the columns have risen a large distance up into the air. There are some people in the corner of this picture so it gives a good indication of the height of these columns.


Coming from the Visitor's Centre, you find yourself at first among the lower columns, people just walk on and around them. You then move onto the higher columns and then down the other side, this path leads away from the stones and looks back on the higher section.

The Giant's Causeway didn't disappoint and I was lucky to get a fine, sunny day to walk among the stones. Natural wonders aren't a huge interest of mine (I like historic buildings, churches, palaces etc) but the Giant's Causeway had enough of the Wow factor that reading about it before I went had me wanting to see it. Once there I did think "wow!" it was just impressive that nature had made these shapes. 



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