What is the Giant's Causeway?

Garry Crystal

Every year, around half a million tourists visit County Antrim in Ireland to marvel at the natural phenomenon that is the Giant's Causeway. Made up of 40,000 basalt columns formed by volcanic action, the Giant's Causeway is often called the eighth wonder of the world. The dramatic hexagonal red columns make up part of the coastline that forms a natural protection against severe Atlantic storms. The scenery in this area gives some of the most breathtaking views in the world; enormous cliffs, secluded bays, isolated ruins, and the Giant's Causeway make for an awe inspiring location.

Tourists that visit Ireland often marvel at the natural phenomenon that is the Giant's Causeway.
Tourists that visit Ireland often marvel at the natural phenomenon that is the Giant's Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway is surrounded by myth and legend. The famous legend concerns two rival giants, Benandonner, who lived in Scotland, and Finn MacCool in Ireland. MacCool was a relatively small giant at 52 feet (about 16 meters), and the two giants would shout across the sea to each other demanding a trial of strength.

Finn MacCool decided to build a rocky path across the sea between the two countries to enable the contest to begin, but exhausted by the work, he fell asleep on the causeway and was found by his giant wife Oonagh. Suddenly she saw Benandonner approaching, who was truly a huge giant. Knowing that Finn would be no match for the huge giant, she placed a coat on top of the sleeping Finn.

Benandonner demanded to know where Finn was. Oonagh replied by pointing at the sleeping Finn and saying, "Be quiet or you will wake my child." Seeing this, Benandonner had second thoughts. If that was the size of their child, how big would Finn be? He ran back to Scotland, smashing the causeway in his trail.

Other stories surrounding the Giant's Causeway concern the wrecks of ships that have perished on the wild coastline. In 1588 at midnight on 30 October, the Girona, a ship that was part of a Spanish Armada, hit Lacada Point. The ship had just picked up the survivors from two other shipwrecks. The crew battled to stop the collision, but it was to no avail, and 1,200 men were lost.

Only five men survived the wreck, and descendants of the survivors are said to live still in Antrim. The victims of the wreck are buried at St Cuthbert's graveyard near Dunluce Castle. The cannons that survived the wreck can also be found there.

The Giant's Causeway is a place that mixes history, legend, and breathtaking views. It also has some of the most amazing natural plants and wildlife in the world. The area is preserved by the National Trust, a conservation organization that operates in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England.

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