Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway

Some say it was a giant, Finn McCool or Fionn mac Cumhaill who built the causeway known as the Giant's Causeway. Finn was an Irish giant who, according to one version of the myth, was having a fight with his rival in Scotland called Benandonner.

Finn built the causeway, using rocks as stepping stones across the Irish Sea to Scotland so they could fight but when Finn realised he couldn't fight Benandonner and win, on account of the Scot's size, his wife suggested that Finn hide in the baby's cot. When Benandonner arrived looking for Finn he looked into the baby's cot and upon seeing the size of the baby, returned in haste to Scotland tearing up the causeway as he went.

The story explains why the same basalt columns are found in Scotland, on the island of Staffa particularly in a place known as Fingal's Cave - another name for Finn.

In reality the Giant's Causeway was formed some 50 to 60 million years ago when the chalk rocks of this part of Antrim were overlaid with basalt from massive volcanic activity.

As the lava from the volcanic eruptions made its way towards the Atlantic Ocean it cooled, the current basalt columns were deep inside the lava flow and cooled more slowly than the basalt layers above.

Those upper layers have over the intervening millions of years been eroded leaving the stronger columnar basalts exposed at three points that make up the Giant's Causeway.

Due to the structure of the atoms the basalt has formed regular sided columns, some 40,000 of which are visible at this part of the coast. They are polygons, mostly hexagons although there are pentagons, octagons and even the occasional square.

What makes the area interesting is that the main causeway appears to drop down off the headland above the Atlantic here dipping under the waves as if to be a pavement or roadway built by a prehistoric giant.

Today the Giant's Causeway has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and with good reason. The area has been attracting tourists for many centuries and scientists, geologists and writers for 300 years or more.

As a Geographer and local to the area, I never tire of photographing and visiting this scenic part of the Irish coast.

To join me on a photography workshop of the Antrim Coast and the Giant's Causeway click here.

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 18:29

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