The Giant’s Causeway Tour how to visit for free

When you visit the unique natural wonder of the Giant’s Causeway you can see pictured in your mind’s eye the Giant Finn Macool striding those basalt cliffs and columns determined to finish that bridge to Scotland and best Bennandonner. This is one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders on the Causeway Coastal Route.

A Giant's Causeway tour view up the hills with the basalt columns

A Giant’s Causeway tour is the dream trip for many a tourist visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland. From the Game of Thrones series that used the stunning landscapes of the Antrim Causeway coast as locations to the legends and myths of the Giant’s Causeway folks are drawn to this place of outstanding natural beauty.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Don’t have a car and want to book a tour – I highly recommend Belfast City Tours.

The Giant’s Causeway Facts and history

What is the Giant’s Causeway?

UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway is regarded as “a spectacular area of global geological importance”. Over a million visitors a year arrive on a Giant’s Causeway Tour to come and marvel at this natural phenomenon.

The Giant’s Causeway is 18 miles of coastline made up of perfectly interconnected polygonal basalt columns. There are over 40,000 of them on this part of the Antrim Coast. 

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

How was the Giant’s Causeway formed?

According to science, The Giant’s Causeway was formed somewhere around 50 to 60 million years ago This region of Northern Ireland was subjected to intense volcanic eruptions. When the molten basalt lava was thrown up through Antrim’s chalk beds it formed a lake of lava.  When the lava cooled and contracted the cracks formed the hexagonal stones and pillars that we see today.

These hexagonal patterns as you see them at the Giant’s Causeway are found around the globe and include the Devil’s Postpile in the US, Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland, Swartifoss Waterfall in Iceland, and Los Prismas Basálticos in Mexico to name a few.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free
Staffa Island caves

The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway

At the dawn of time in Ireland there lived a giant named Finn mac cumail (Finn McCool) he was a massive 54 feet tall and said to have the strength of 500 men. He was married to Oonagh and lived happily on the Antrim Coast.

Across the waters in Scotland lived a giant known as Benandonner who believed he was the strongest giant in the world. Benandonner would harass and taunt Finn across the waters and one day he just pissed Finn off so much that Finn picked up a lump of earth and threw it at him. The lump missed and fell into the Irish Sea creating what came to be known as the Isle of Man and the hole left by the earth lump became Lough Neagh.

Finn got sick and tired of all the harassment and decided to build a path to Scotland so he could fight Benandonner once and for all. The Causeway path Finn laid down was joined by the path that Benandonner built from Scotland. For weeks the giants toiled building a path to each other.

Finally, the two paths met and Finn saw Benandonner coming over the hill and was shocked by the huge size of the Scottish giant. Since Benandonner had not yet seen Finn he ran back to his house and asked Oonagh to help him hide. Being a very smart woman she disguised Finn as a baby and put him into a huge cradle. When Benandonner knocked on the door Finn pretended to cry. Benandonner spotted the ‘baby’ and thought to himself if the baby was that gigantic how big was Finn himself. So Benandonner turned and ran back to Scotland destroying the causeway behind him so Finn couldn’t follow him.

Where is the Giant’s Causeway?

The Giant’s Causeway is on the Antrim Coastal Route, which is a mere 5-minute drive from the village of Bushmills – yes the famous Whiskey producing village. It’s about 10 minutes from Dunluce Castle and 15 from the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. The Causeway Coast is or rather was a prime location for all the Game of Thrones filming sites and there’s many a pub or restaurant on the route showcasing the Tour of Doors which are the carved tours that fell from the trees in the Dark Hedges.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Belfast to Giant’s Causeway

From Belfast, if you rent a car the drive is around 51 miles and takes an hour and a half.  If you drive you can park at the Giant’s Causeway Railway Park which goes from just outside Bushmills village. The journey takes 20 minutes on the old Giant’s Causeway Tram. Parking is free if you take the tram and the fees are Fares Adult Ticket £5.00 and Children £3.00. The fees may have gone up in 2020 due to the world situation.

You can also park at the Giant’s Causeway Railway park where the tram terminates and that cost is only £6.00 per car per day and you can walk to the stones for free.  

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Dublin to Giant’s Causeway

If you drive from Dublin it will take you around 3 hours to get to the Giant’s Causeway but you can also book many tours of the Causeway Coast from Dublin.

Do you have to pay to see the Giant’s Causeway?

The Giant’s Causeway is free to visit and you do not need to pay the parking fees at the Causeway Visitor Centre which actually give you parking and access to the Centre, not the Causeway. The National Trust Giant’s Causeway visitor centre is not part of the Giant’s Causeway and is built around a mile from the Causeway itself. Many visitors are fooled into believing they can only park here and pay for the privilege of seeing the Causeway. I will always recommend avoiding the Causeway visitors centre because it doesn’t support the locals and it charges far too much to see the Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

The cost for parking at the Visitors Centre is an extortionate £12.50 per person in the vehicle so it isn’t a one-off fee.

How to see the Giant’s Causeway for free

If you are a hiker you can take the trail from Portballintrae and walk the coast to the Causeway this passes alongside the tram line.

You can also enjoy the hospitality of The Nook pub right beside the Causeway and if you ask nicely they will let you park for free. We had a fabulous lunch at the Pub and enjoyed the warmth of the open fire before we strolled down to the Causeway. From The Nook it’s a short walk to the tunnel behind the visitors centre where you can catch the bus down to the Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

How long does it take to see the Giant’s Causeway?

It really takes around 2-3  hours to explore the Giant’s Causeway. To save your feet take the small bus that stops behind the Visitor’s Centre just after the tunnel. It costs £1 to go down to the Coast and the same again to get back up.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Giant’s Causeway Weather

Well, that’s a little difficult to say, I’ve been there in blustery freezing cold winter weather and in bright sunny weather – sometimes both on the same day. I would venture to say the best time to visit the Giant’s Causeway is in the shoulder season early to late spring or in early to late fall. That way you avoid the majority of the tourist hordes and you can get some beautiful weather.

What to see at the Giant’s Causeway

When you tour the Giant’s Causeway Coast route you can hike or walk to the Giant’s Causeway and within it and are four walking trails within the site that are suitable for all abilities and ages. When you head through the tunnel follow the roadway down the steep slope and you will arrive at the Stookans or Windy Gap as it is known. You will know when you reach it because it is completely exposed to the elements.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

The Giant’s Causeway is made up of three areas Little Causeway, Middle Causeway is also known as the Honeycomb where you can see the stunning famous black basalt hexagonal columns.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

The Grand Causeway features the Wishing Well, Wishing Chair and the Giant’s Gate which are all part of the Giant Macool’s legend.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free
©Museum of Northern Ireland

 From here head to Port Noffer which is a very different environment due to being sheltered. This is a saltmarsh that is rich in birdlife and vegetation.

From the Giants Boot, you can climb the small slope to the Organ and admire the massive columns. Moving along from the Organ you will come to the headland where you will find a viewing platform called the Amphitheatre. From here you can take in the stunning landscapes of Antrim and look towards Rathlin Island and the North Atlantic.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free
©gub.ac.uk

Did you spot the Giant’s Harp and eyes?

If you take the time to climb the very steep path with its many steps (162) you can follow this Shepherd’s Path to the North Antrim Cliff Path and within half a mile you will be back at the Visitors Centre.   

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Best time to visit the Giant’s Causeway?

I like to go to the Causeway in the spring and fall, you will find plenty of tourists but it isn’t terribly crowded with busloads of them. I also enjoy the area in the months of January and February it can be brutally cold and windy but the rough roar of the Atlantic as it crashes on the rocks is mesmerizing.

NORTHERN IRELAND, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14, 2016: Giant's Causeway in a beautiful summer day, Northern Ireland

If you are driving the Causeway Coast in the summer months from May to September you will find it easy to get to the Causeway coast either early in the morning as the sun comes up at around 4″30 am for those brilliant sunrise shots. You can stay much later as well since the sun doesn’t go down until around 10 pm.

The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

Living in Ireland allows me to travel this beautiful country from end to end. If there is any question or place in Ireland – North or South you may have feel free to contact me.

Is there anywhere in Ireland that you would like to see an article on let me know.

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The Giant's Causeway Tour how to visit for free

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