The first time you see it, you think there’s no way it can be real. The otherworldly rock formations of The Giant’s Causeway look like something out of a movie set. In fact, they have been a set location for the hit show Game of Thrones and the movie Dracula Untold.
The Giant’s Causeway, located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a formation of interlocking, basalt columns that have an unusual, geometric shape, or rather shapes. The columns are usually perfect hexagons, but you can also find pillars with anywhere from four to eight sides.
“Formed 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, the Giant’s Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching toward the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea. Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 metres) in height. They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 330 feet (100 metres) in elevation.” –Encyclopedia Britannica
So, now that we’ve covered the sciency stuff, we need to talk about the really cool, totally true legends of The Giant’s Causeway. From Wikipedia “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 Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.“
The Giant’s Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, and in 1987 it was named a National Nature Reserve. It became a tourist destination in the 1800’s and a magnificent new visitor’s center was opened in 2012, making this a must see, bucket-list vacation spot.