According to a2zgov, the only Northern Irish natural monument was created around 50 to 60 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. The almost 5 km long cliff coast consists of around 40,000 basalt columns. Most of them are hexagonal and have an average diameter of 45 cm. Some have four, five, seven, or eight pages.
Giant’s Causeway: Facts
|Official title:||The Giant’s Causeway and its coast|
|Natural monument:||Causeway Coast with 6 km long cliffs that are up to 90 m high; about 40,000 four-, six-, seven- and eight-sided basalt columns protruding from the sea, including the 12 m high “Giant’s Organ”|
|Country:||Great Britain, Northern Ireland|
|Location:||on the edge of the Antrim Plateau, east of Portrush|
|Meaning:||Geological formation of volcanic origin from the Tertiary (50-60 million years ago) as an important example of geological development|
Giant’s Causeway: History
|55 million years ago||volcanic activity|
|15,000 years ago||Formation of today’s Causeway Coast|
|1740||Publication of sketches of the Giants Causeway|
|1883||Portrush – Giants Causeway electric tram line opened|
|1967/68||Salvage of the »Girona«, which sank off the Causeway Coast in 1588, with the treasure of the Spanish Armada|
|1989||Declaration of the Causeway Coast Area as a Landscape of National Importance|
|2012||Opening of the visitor center|
Stone honeycombs bathed in the sea
“Once upon a time…” that’s how old fairy tales and stories always begin. And so begins one of the stories about the creation of the Giants Causeway on the north coast of the Green Island, this natural phenomenon that does not seem to be from our world.
Once upon a time there was a giant named Finn McCool – the old Gaelic name Clochan na bhFomharaigh implies tongue-twisting skill – who inhabited the far north of Ireland. In love with a giantess on the Scottish island of Staffa, he thought about how he could bring her to Ireland. So he came up with the idea of building a dam to bring them home with dry feet.
This “Giant’s Road” is now Northern Ireland’s most popular attraction. Hundreds of thousands are drawn to the Antrim coast every year, the rock formations of which have captured the imagination of people for centuries. And soon a dispute arose among scientists how this phenomenon could be explained beyond local legends. Indeed, a remarkable panorama spreads before the eye of the beholder, which amazes: Almost 40,000 symmetrically shaped stone pillars seem to grow out of the sea and form a varied, stepped landscape. It is amazing how regular their shapes are, most of the columns are hexagonal and are reminiscent of the honeycombs of a beehive. But three-, four-, five-, seven-, eight- and nine-sided columns can also be discovered. Pressed tightly together, they “sprout” out of the ground along the coast and also underwater, forming stairs, steps and landings of different heights. Not all columns are made from one piece, many are made up of individual elements that lie on top of each other like building blocks. A modern sculptor couldn’t have created a more aesthetic object.
According to legend, many of the surrounding rock formations have been given imaginative names. Then “Giants Organ” rises, the “Giant’s Organ”, the pillars of which are indeed reminiscent of oversized organ pipes. There is a »wishing chair«, a stone-shaped »chair of desires« on which, how could it be otherwise, the wishes of the sitter are fulfilled. According to local stories, the allegedly only eight-sided stone of the Giants Causeway fulfills a special function: if it is removed, the “Giant’s Chaussee” collapses completely. One of the most beautiful formations is the so-called “giant’s amphitheater”, a semicircular amphitheater with several rows of seats, as if it had been accurately built by an ancient master builder.
The scientific explanation of this natural spectacle sounds a lot more sober. Millions of years ago there was brisk volcanic activity in this region. Lava, which was about a thousand degrees Celsius, rose through chimneys to the surface and solidified into hard basalt.
At the end of the 17th century, when the Royal Society first published a description of this natural phenomenon, travelers were drawn to this part of Ireland. Paintings and drawings as well as numerous accounts by writers spread the word about the Giant’s Causeway throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Exaggerations and strange attempts at explanations – like that of a researcher that it was a petrified bamboo forest, or that of the English author William Makepeace Thackeray, that the basalt columns were a remnant of the chaos from which the world emerged – reinforced the reputation an incomparable coastal landscape.
A hotel still stands above the Giants Causeway, which opened its doors in the 19th century and is open to all visitors who want to enjoy this natural spectacle on longer and extremely rewarding hikes along the steep coast.