Giant’s Causeway Tour exploring the myths and legends
When you visit the Giant’s Causeway you can see pictured in your mind’s eye the Giant Finn Macool striding those basalt columns determined to finish that bridge to Scotland and best Bennandonner.
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 magical place.
What is the Giant’s Causeway?
A 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.
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 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.
How far is the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast?
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.
How far is the Giant’s Causeway 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 Visitor’s Centre which actually give you parking and access to the Centre, not the Causeway. The 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.
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.
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.
What to see at the Giant’s Causeway
There 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 is made up of three areas Little Causeway, Middle Causeway is also known as the Honeycomb where you can see the stunning hexagonal columns.
The Grand Causeway features the Wishing Well, Wishing Chair and the Giant’s Gate which are all part of Macool’s legend.
From here head to Port Noffer which is a very different environment due to being sheltered. This is a saltmarsh which 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.
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 Shepherds Path to the North Antrim Cliff Path and within half a mile you will be back at the Visitors Centre.
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.
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.
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