Giant's Causeway

A natural wonder, created by giants?

What and where
Since the 18th century the Giant's Causeway, has been described as 'the 8th Wonder of The World'. It is a mass of basalt columns on the northern coast of Ireland. It is Northern Ireland’s most famous landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Legend holds that it was created by the giant Finn MacCool to provide a crossing for his beloved lady giant from a Hebridian island.

The north Antrim coastline in renowned for it scenic beauty and the Giant's Causeway is its unique jewel in the crown. A jagged promontory of neatly packed columns of hexagonal rocks, it was created some 6 million years ago by a flow of basaltic lava. The dramatic cliff like edge of the plateau forms the Causeway coastline. The larger fissures, through which the lava flowed, can be clearly seen as bands of dark rock which cut down the cliff faces and jut out to sea.

Middle basalt rocks form the columns of the Giant's Causeway. The rapidly cooling lava contracted and variations in the cooling rate resulted in the world famous columnar structure. Weathering of the top of the lower Basalts formed the inter basaltic bed - the band of reddish rock which is a feature of the area.

The same action of the weather created circular formations round a nugget of basalt which are known locally as 'giant's eyes'. Altogether there are 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with 4, 5, 7 and 8 sides. The tallest are about 12 m (40 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is almost 30 m (90 ft) thick in places.

Other formations are known as the Chimney Stacks, The Harp, The Organ and the Camel's Hump. A circular walk will take you down to the Grand Causeway, past amphitheatres of stone columns and formations with fanciful names like the Honeycomb, the Wishing Well, the Giant's Granny and the King and his Nobles.

Why
At the heart of one of Europe's most magnificent coastlines its unique rock formations have, for millions of years, stood as a natural rampart against the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. The rugged symmetry of the columns never fails to intrigue and inspire visitors.

The area is a haven for sea birds such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank guillemot and razorbill. Rock pippits and wagtails explore the shoreline and eider duck are found in sheltered water.

The Giants Causeway was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 (by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland). In a recent poll Giant's Causeway was named as the 4th greatest natural wonder in the UK.

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