The Giant’s Causeway – A Great Natural Wonder of the World

 Giant's Causeway Co AntrimPhoto Credit

The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing geological wonder, which truly has to be seen to be believed.  Located amidst the magical splendor of the rugged County Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland, this jagged promontory of neatly stacked and packed rock columns, is completely alluring.

mosaic of rock pillars

Many Irish people like to consider the Giant’s Causeway the 8th Wonder of the World.  It consists of a mosaic of stepping stones formed by interlocking basalt, rock pillars, mostly hexagonal in shape.  The uniformity of these pillars makes them appear man made, rather than nature made.

stepping stones at Giant's Causeway

Geologists attribute the formation of the causeway to an intense volcanic eruption, which spewed molten, basalt lava into the ocean over 6 million years ago.  As the liquid lava cooled, it hardened and cracked into distinctive, tile-shaped, interlocking columns, estimated to be around 40,000 in number.

The tallest basalt pillar is around 40 feet high.  Behind this high point, the mass of stepping stones gradually narrows, slowly disappearing into the sea.

The Giant's Causeway - disappearing pathPhoto Credit

Their close to perfect symmetrical appearance led our ancient ancestors to believe they originated in a magical otherworld.

Celtic Irish mythology attributes the causeway’s formation to Fionn MacCumhaill (Finn McCool), the great, ancient giant and hero of Ireland.  There are many versions of this tale.  My favorite tells how Fionn created his path through the sea to walk to Scotland.  He planned to challenge his enemy, the giant Bennandonner (sometimes referred to as Fingal).

On his way over Fionn fell asleep on the causeway.  His wife Una spotted Bennandonner walking towards Ireland.  She feared for her husband when she saw the enormous size of the Scottish giant.  Thinking quickly, as Irish women have a tendency to do, she threw a blanket over her sleeping husband.   As the Scottish giant passed her, she pleaded with him not to wake her sleeping baby.

Poor Bennandonner was astonished at the size of the woman’s sleeping child.  Naturally he assumed if the child could be so huge, his father must be colossal altogether.   Petrified of an encounter with such a gigantic Irishman, he hightailed it back to Scotland, ripping up the causeway, thereby preventing Fionn’s pursuit.  All that remains are the two tail-ends of the causeway, on the northern coast of Ireland and on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland.

The Scottis Giant's CausewayThe Scottish Giant’s Causeway on the Isle of Staffa – photo credit

UNESCO named The Giant’s Causeway a World Heritage Site in 1986.  The Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland declared it a National Nature Reserve in 1987 and in 2005 it was recognized as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom in a Radio Times readers’ poll.

Pillars of stone in causeway cliffs

Information on how to get there and all tourist amenities is available on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board site.  A new visitor’s center is planned for 2012.

Giants Causeway - rocks and cliffs

I highly recommend tourists to Ireland do not miss out on the amazing adventure that awaits at the Giant’s Causeway.  Remember to wear good climbing shoes, pack some rain gear, and get out there on those rocks to experience the wonders of nature, just as Fionn MacCumhaill once did.

Check out my video of the Giant’s Causeway.

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom


  1. I’ve never seen pics of this natural wonder before. Amazing how it was formed!

    I would love to go to Ireland someday. My great-great grandfather immigrated from there. He came with his brother as stowaways on a ship, and then they got separated accidentally in NYC, never to see one another again.

    • Your ancestors’ story is amazing. Imagine never seeing each other again, after crossing the Atlantic together as stowaways. I love to hear immigrant tales, to try to gain an understanding of what our predecessors experienced and endured. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You know i’m ashamed to say that in all the time I’ve lived in Ayrshire, West of Scotland (now in NZ) I never got around to visiting Ireland. Now, I wish I had. Thanks for sharing that story and educating me about the Scottish Giants Causeway on Staffa, I never knew! Thanks also for popping by my little blogspot and leaving me a comment. I’m sure my knitting needles won’t be out for quite a while after the arrival of No 3 (anytime soon!). Nice to meet you :)

  3. mmclassics says:

    When my husband and I were living our “before kids” life, we took a trip to the UK. We loved Scotland and Northern Ireland. We still have a panoramic photo of the Giant’s Causeway over the tv. What a marvelous spot of beauty and wonder. Thank you for sharing. I’ll have to try a recipe or two as well. I have a favorite Potato and Leek soup recipe, a yummy Corned Beef w Guiness in the crock pot, but I have many delicious dishes to add from a land of our travels. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Paula Brown says:

    Thank you for this description and video of The Giant’s Causeway. I’ve never felt the desire for a bucket list until now, and it’s because of this wonder.

    My ancestors emigrated from County Louth to Ontario Canada in 1834. They had 6 boys. The 2nd Cholera struck their ship, my 2nd Great Grandfather Francis Tallon and three of his sons died and were buried at sea. Great Grandmother Rosetta Plunkett and sons John, Thomas and James made it to Canada and somehow carried on.

    This was before the Famine. Rosetta was Catholic, Francis was Protestant. The story is Rosetta’s family made her leave Dunsany Castle, home of Randall Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, because she was with a Protestant. Francis’s father, a Lord, made Rosetta live downstairs, with the help, because she was Catholic. She became a servant girl, while her husband lived upstairs. Lord Tallen was so uncomfortable with the situation that he persuaded Francis to take his inheritance and take his family to Canada.

    It’s so sad that society dictated such unfairness. Such a tragedy I felt it should be shared.

    Paula Brown, Ottawa, Canada

    • Dear Paula – I hope someday you get to see Ireland and The Giant’s Causeway – it truly is spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story with us. Such a tragic experience for Rosetta and her three surviving sons to endure, right when they were hoping to start a new life in a new world. Our ancestors’ resilience never ceases to amaze me, especially when we understand how unfair society was at that time. Ireland in the early 19th century boasted a very tiered society, not just divided by religion, but stratified according to class within each religion. It’s difficult to comprehend when viewed from today’s perspective. Our forebears’ will to survive and flourish paved the way for our successes today.
      Best wishes, and thanks so much for stopping by.

Speak Your Mind