– AUGUST 11, 2015
We are in Northern Ireland to see the Giant’s Causeway! This is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1986 and a natural reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.
The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is also known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFomhórach in Irish and tha Giant’s Causey in Ulster-Scots.
It is located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about 4.8 km northeast of the town of Bushmills. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.
The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.
According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.
Around 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled, contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks propagating down as the mass cooled, leaving pillar-like structures, which are also fractured horizontally into “biscuits”. In many cases the horizontal fracture has resulted in a bottom face that is convex while the upper face of the lower segment is concave, producing what are called “ball and socket” joints. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools. The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (locally pronounced carrick-a-reedy) is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede (from Irish: Carraig a’ Ráid, meaning “rock of the casting”). It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below. The bridge is a tourist attraction and sees over 250,000 visitors each year.
While in this area we had lunch in Ballycastle and met an interesting gentleman. It turns out that Ballycastle is where Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones) was taught gradeschool by him and it still the home of Conleth Hill (Lord Varys on Game of Thrones). They can be spotted on any given day stopping by the fish n’ chips shop for an early dinner. Northern Ireland is one of the main locations for Game of Thrones filming, but they were currently in production while we were in Ireland so we wouldn’t have been able to see the main sets.
Next stop is Belfast!
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.