In the Footsteps of Giants

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It begins with a tale of two giants. One Irish, one Scottish.

The Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCoul to most people), gets wind one day that a great Scottish giant has challenged him to a fight. In most versions of the legend, Finn accepts the challenge, and builds a great causeway across the Northern Channel between (Northern) Ireland and Scotland so that the two giants can meet (without getting their feet wet).

But Finn then hears of how big and powerful the Scottish giant is, and decides to try and trick him instead. Finn has his wife Una disguise him as a baby and place him in a cradle. When the Scottish giant catches sight of Finn — believing Finn is out and that this huge baby belongs to him — he decides that Finn must indeed be a giant among giants and flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
Today, the remnants of this tale can be found in strangely-shaped basalt columns found both at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and identical columns disappearing into the sea off the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, it's known simply as the Giant's Causeway.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
This UNESCO World Heritage site has always been in my peripheral vision; always been a place that I was interested in someday visiting. And so, when the opportunity arose to pop up to Northern Ireland after deciding to spend some extra days in Dublin back in October, I took it.

Arriving at the Causeway, I initially wasn't sure what to expect; I couldn't even see the stone columns from the (very modern) visitor's center, and was at first even a bit lost as to which direction to walk in. But, when I eventually decided to just head downhill and follow the shuttle buses ferrying tourists to and from the visitor's center, I was eventually rewarded with this site:

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
The Giant's Causeway in all its glory was even cooler than I had expected it to be.

In reality, the 40,000 or so basalt columns were formed millions of years ago during an ancient volcanic eruption (those similar columns in Scotland are actually from the same lava flow). The columns — most hexagonal in shape — formed naturally as the lava cooled, dried, contracted, and eventually fractured.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

What's left today is like a huge playground constructed by Mother Nature.

For nearly an hour, I ,too, hopped around atop the oddly-shaped stones, playing a weird game of stair-step hopscotch and feeling like a little kid again.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Even if you're not feeling very child-like, I guarantee that a visit to this unique spot will put a smile on your face.

Just look out for any wandering giants…

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Practical Tips for Visiting Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland is becoming more and more popular with tourists. I therefore recommend visiting either early in the day or later in the evening in order to avoid the worst crowds.

Your visit will start at the fancy new Visitor Center, where you can find interactive exhibits, a cafe, and a spot where you can get tickets and pick up an audio guide for the Causeway.

From the visitor center, you can get to the Causeway itself two ways: either take a shuttle down to the main part of the rocks (it's about 1 pound per ride), or head up to do the cliffside walk first, which will eventually lead down to the Causeway. I highly recommend the second option, as you'll be hiking down most of the way. Plus, the views from above are really incredible.

Giant's Causeway from above
Giant's Causeway from above

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

How long do you need? You need *at least* 2-3 hours to see Giant's Causeway, but half a day to fully enjoy it.

How much does it cost? Tickets to the Causeway are 9 GBP for adults, and you are encouraged to book ahead (you'll get a timed entry ticket), as the site is very popular and they do limit how many people are at the Causeway at any time.

Can I book a tour? If you don't want to drive yourself, you can book Giant's Causeway day trips from both Dublin and Belfast, which often include stops at other nearby sites, too. Check these ones out:

Where can I stay? Want to stay overnight near Giant's Causeway? Check out the Causeway Hotel or Bushmills Inn.

Is the Giant's Causeway a spot YOU would like to visit?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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22 Comments on “In the Footsteps of Giants

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  1. […] There are a LOT of Black Taxi companies offering tours around Belfast. I can’t speak to any of the other companies, but I went on a tour with West Belfast Mural Tours, and can recommend them as a company that offers informative, balanced tours of both “sides” of Belfast. This was actually booked as a combo tour to Northern Ireland from Dublin through Viator, which also included a trip to Giant’s Causeway. […]

    It is very incredible for mother nature to turn god only knows how many stones into hexagonal shapes after lava cools and for it to be in two different places, too. WOW! That is just crazy and amazing!!! I absolutely loved the story too. I never knew that part and loved that you added it. This has definitely made me wanna visit both causeways in Northern Ireland and Scotland someday. Thank you for sharing their beauty and folk tales ^_^

      I want to see the Scotland size of the Causeway someday, too!

    Cool story:)
    Amazing also that those columns are nature-made. They seem so identically shaped!

      I know, right? I showed photos to my boyfriend’s parents, and his dad was insisting they must be man-made! I assure you they aren’t though!

    catching up on some of your reads! loving them! I loved the Giant’s Causeway.though its a strange place, something great about it but just can never put my finger on what it is. The rope bridge for me was the best!

      I know exactly what you mean! There’s just something so cool about this spot.

    Interesting story – I never knew where the Giant’s Causeway tale came from. The photos are beautiful. Northern Ireland escaped me when I was in Ireland – I need to make it back there!

      It’s a cool folk tale, and it DOES actually kind of seem plausible when you’re there. Northern Ireland is somewhere I really want to go back to!

    Perfect timing! I just booked a flight to Belfast and will definitely be taking a day trip here. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Beautiful photos!

      Perfect timing indeed! Definitely get yourself up here for a day. And enjoy Belfast, too! It’s a really interesting city.

    I like reading about legends, especially in places like Scotland and Ireland! Now I regret that I never made it to Giant’s Causeway in my two trips to Ireland. I was always too busy visiting Dublin or the south-western part of the country. Have you kissed the Blarney stone? That’s another place where folk tales abound!

      I have indeed kissed the Blarney stone! Lots of fun folk tales around Blarney castle, for sure.

    Great photos. I was able to visit on my trip to Ireland. It was a lot of driving and a bit out of the way. If you have never seen basalt formations before, it is totally worth it.

      Even if you HAVE seen them before, I think it’s still worth it! I’ve seen basalt stacks before in Iceland, but never any like these ones at Giant’s Causeway!

    Looks like a lovely place! I liked the unique story behind it too. 🙂

    Incredible; that’s really something! I’ll have to add this to my ever-growing list of places I must see!

      It really IS incredible, especially when you see it up close! The shape in which the rock columns have formed is just so cool.

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