I first heard about the magical Giant’s Causeway when I was staying in Paris with a girl who had gone to university in Dublin. “When you visit Ireland,” she said, “you really should go up to north and see the rock formations at Giant’s Causeway. It’s an incredible place.”
Naturally, I put the place on my list. And as I traveled through Ireland and the U.K., I heard much more about this unusual place. Located on the beautiful Antrim coast, Giant’s Causeway is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Northern Ireland. It’s really a must-visit spot if you’re traveling in the area.
Giant’s Causeway is an area famous for its unique basalt columns, which form hills, cliffs and a variety of interesting formations. Legend has it that a giant named Finn McCool created the formations when he decided to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Knowing that I wanted to see this magical place and have time to explore the area, I booked a few nights at a hostel in the small town of Bushmills and walked the 2.5 miles to Giant’s Causeway. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to get some exercise. If you’d prefer not to walk, buses do travel the route regularly. If you choose either to walk or to take public transportation, be sure to let the ticket office at the visitors’ center know. You’ll save £2 off the regular price of admission (currently £9 for adults). Not a bad deal!
When you arrive at Giant’s Causeway, it is possible to bypass the visitor’s center and explore the area for free. There are trails of varying difficulty and some directional signage to guide you. However, I thought it was worthwhile to have access to the visitor’s center as well as the free audio guide included in the admission price.
I purchased a ticket when I arrived, picked up the audioguide, and headed out along the coastal trail to take in the area’s natural beauty and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
The audioguide is a little cheesy, and the narrator has the twangy voice of someone who might be leading a tour of a Texas gold mine. But the guide does provide some interesting anecdotes and information about the area as well as background on specific sites along the trails, including the “Organ Pipes” formation. The audioguide also includes options to see photos and hear more about different elements of the area’s historical background, such as the shops that were located in the Giant’s Causeway during Victorian times.
Giant’s Causeway has fascinated visitors and inspired artists and writers for centuries, and I certainly understand why. When you visit this spectacular place, give yourself plenty of time to take it in. I spent a few hours exploring all of the trails and taking in the incredible views from the high scenic overlooks.
Once I had taken in the magnificent views and explored all the pathways, I returned to the visitor’s center to check out the small interactive museum and watch a cute animated movie about the legend of Finn McCool. The museum provides some interesting background on the scientific debate that took place about how the mysterious rock columns had been formed (it turns out they weren’t made by giants…go figure!). I also enjoyed the section that includes quotes and artwork from visitors of the distant past who felt themselves mysteriously drawn to the magical landscape.
The visitor’s center also includes a gift shop and cafe, but I recommend saving money and packing a lunch, as I did. Your open-air picnic will be accompanied by incredible views. Giant’s Causeway is certainly unlike anyplace I have seen and is definitely worth a visit.