A Day Trip to the Giants Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway has inspired, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it. Check out how Catherine got on with her recent visit to the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.
Northern Ireland is hitting the headlines for all the right reasons these days and one of its premier attractions is the North’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giants Causeway. Located on the now must-see destination of Co. Antrim, the Giants Causeway is a geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which are the result of intense volcanic and geological activity.
The Causeway provides a glimpse into the Earth’s most ancient past with an epic 60 million year-old legacy to the cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows. It also steeped in myth and legend. Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. Local people here believe that between the hexagons, the mythical features carved out in the rocks and the tumbling sea, there’s real magic.
Located just over 1 hour from Northern Ireland’s capital city of Belfast, it makes for an unmissable stop when in the vicinity. Having spent months with writing, researching, advising, recommending – basically every verb besides visit the Causeway, you can bet when the lovely Eimear Flanagan from Away A Wee Walk invited me to join her on a tour of the Causeway, I jumped, sang, danced – basically every verb associated with the delight which is exploring a little more of Ireland.
A day in Northern Ireland was well spent as we started along the Causeway’s 5 mile cliff path which was about 3 hours out from its famous UNESCO world heritage site. Easily misunderstood, the Giants Causeway is much more than the famous site photographed worldwide. It is a cliff path along some of the best cliff views in Europe and as it just so happens, at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast of Antrim is the dramatic sight of 40,000 massive black basalt columns peaking out of the sea.
It is a real local landmark offering something for everyone from overseas visitors and geological enthusiastic to Irish mythology seekers and this herd of sheep of course. With the shores of Scotland in the distance and the lone accommodation dwelling of Port Moon Bothy quietly nestled before crashing waves, it is as wild as it is wonderful, unpredictable as it is settling.
Eimear leads the way with expert knowledge and insight on the iconic attraction of the North. Operating her one-woman business, she sums up why she has achieved the success she has with her guided walking tours when telling me visitors today are coming here for the scenery, the locals and the authenticity – of which Eimear helped me discover just that for myself.
Traveling off the beaten path, it’s impossible to predict who you will meet. On this day, the packed lunch and tea at the most perfect picnic spot was a clue this local couple had made this walk just a few times. Stopping and listening to their encounters on the Causeway from years ago was enough to make me understand why locals say magic exists in this landscape.
Just on ahead, we ran into two Stone-masons expertly crafting their skills to construct a more robust path to add even more delight while on your walking way. Taking a quick break from their enviable ‘office’ among the Causeway surroundings, the guys here told me of the spike in visitors to the area with many making it a real Antrim experience by visiting Bushmills Distillery or the Ulster Aviation Society.
A common thread of discussion between the Causeway characters I had met was the absolute belief that the Giants Causeway is so much more than the UNESCO site within its proximity. In fact, these locals were almost frustrated that people are only discovering a small part of the coast and are missing out on predominant cliffs with touching tales of local life.
Standing on the very edge of the land you call home, looking out over the sea which separate many from the warm welcomes of the Isle of Ireland, is a hard feeling to describe. Borrowing words from Eimear, magical, authentic and soul-renewing experiences at one of the most famous Irish landscapes sounds just about right.
Ascending down into Finn MacCool’s playground marked the final stops on Eimears tour of the Giants Causeway. The Causeway is overseen by the National Trust who manage the site visited by almost 1 million visitors arriving to awe at the dramatics of its legend, myth and beauty.
A photo finish to a day of understated excellence, it wasn’t only me snapping moments to remember. Hey – if the backdrop is good enough for this bride, it is definitely good enough for me.
Now as a full fledged visitor of the Giants Causeway (including the visitor center which harbors a wealth of local history and haberdashery), I will make like the myth and speak of wishes. My wish for your next visit to Northern Ireland is to invest the time in yourself and visit the Causeway via the beaten track.
This 3 hour tour never risked becoming a trek as walking along a dramatic natural background had a wonder, hidden or striking, at every corner and it is experiences like that, which are rewarding from start to finish, that often end up being the most cherished memories.