The coastline is not one you see everyday, where the water smacks into rocks stacked in a strange hexagonal pattern. Grown men, women and children hop from rock column to rock column as though it is a school jungle gym. However it is nature’s idea of a playground. I hopped with the masses at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, discovering this unusual coastline of towering rock formations credited by the ancients to none other than a giant. And while the joy of leaping around this giant’s playground is entertaining, there are a few questions you might have for conquering the coastline yourself, just like a giant.
What’s The Story? Every great natural setting has a myth the ancients believed over earthly causes. The Giant’s Causeway is no different. As legend would have it, the strange formations begin with the story of Irish giant Finn McCool. McCool went to go fight his giant counterpart Benandonner in Scotland. Once he saw the size of the sleeping giant, he raced back home to his wife instead. Benandonner would make the trip over to face McCool but Finn’s wife quickly deceived him. She dressed her husband like a baby and told the giant that the child was Finn’s son. Out of fear at facing the giant baby’s daddy, Benandonner tore up the coastline on his way back to Scotland. His ripping and roaring would create, or so the believers say, the Giant’s Causeway.
What’s The Truth? While the legend of Finn McCool romanticizes the creation of the causeway, the truth is much more of a geologist’s tale. The strange polygonal basalt columns stacked along the water are the work of an undersea volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago. Erosion cut the lava flow, allowing for hexagonal columns to spring up in a sporadic fashion. There are around 38,000 basalt columns along the Giant’s Causeway.
How Much? With the opening of the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center this summer, the fees may change a bit but for the time, there is no charge to roam the land of giants yourself. However, if you arrive by car to the car park right at the site, you will pay £6. There are rumors this price could turn per head for visitors beginning in the summer of 2012. Travelers looking to save a few extra pounds can park at the new Giant’s Causeway Park and Ride service in the village of Bushmills for £1.75.
What Should You Wear? I made the mistake of wearing less than appropriate shoes to the Giant’s Causeway. I had read the path out to the stones was well paved. However if you plan on hopping from basalt column to basalt column, you will want gripping shoes. Also the walk out to some of the other formations along the Coastal Path can become extremely narrow and rocky. Don’t show up to the causeway without proper footing or you will have to limit how far along the path you can go.
How Far Should You Go? The Coastal Path along the Causeway coast runs around 12 miles from the Giant’s Causeway to the nail biting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The formations take on different names for their shapes along the path including the Organ, Finn’s Boot and the Chimneystacks. Depending on how many of these you want to see, you could spend quite a bit of time covering the Coastal Path. There are several inns and guesthouses along the way for those walkers looking to rest up for the night.
Do I Have To Walk? Those who don’t want to walk down to the main causeway area can elect to hop on the shuttle bus at the visitor’s center. The bus takes riders down to the main area of the rock formations. After time spent frolicking from column to column, the bus arrives to take you back to the visitor’s center.