Situated on the North Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, the bleak and rocky landscape of the Giant's Causeway, lurking below the sweeping cliffs where the Irish coast ends have held a mystical place in Irish legend
'When the world was moulded and fashioned out of formless chaos, this must have been the bit over - a remnant of chaos.' - Thackeray
Like many tourists, Thackeray was very impressed by the unique landscape. The Causeway is a geological anomaly, caused by volcanic eruptions, and cooling lava which flowed directly into the cold Irish Sea, thus creating the form of the rocks.
Irish legend knows differently, and has the causeway as the work of the giant Finn McCool, who wished to cross to Scotland.
The first historical accounts of the Causeway started appearing in the late 17th century. The Bishop of Derry made one of the first recorded visits in 1692 and the Chevalier De La Tocnaye, galloped up to the cliff edge in 1797.
Before the famous coast road (the A1 running along the Northern Ireland coast) was built travelling to the causeway was difficult at best, but with one compensation, the last town before arrival was Bushmills.
The Causeway itself is a mass grouping of basalt columns packed tightly together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea, and reappear on a island of the Scottish coast. Altogether there are over 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 40 feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 90 feet thick in places. The shape was cause by the particular cooling caused by eruptions directly into the Irish sea.
A walkway has been built by the Northern irish Tourist board, will takes vistors down to the Grand Causeway (which you can follow out into the sea), past amphitheatres of stone columns and rock formations names like the Honeycomb, the Wishing Well, the Giant's Granny and the King and his Nobles, past Port na Spaniagh where the Spanish Armada ship Girona foundered, past wooden staircases to Benbane Head (where you can take a short cut back), and eventually to the end of the Causeway and back along the cliff top.