Giant’s Causeway: UNESCO Heritage site in Northern Ireland

Explorar a Calçada dos Gigantes.
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2024-06-13

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, a National Nature Reserve since 1987, and it is truly an incredible place!

This curious geological formation emerged after a volcanic eruption around 60 million years ago and was discovered in 1693. So, what is this causeway? Well, it consists of approximately 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, resembling a pathway or street made of gigantic stones.

There is also an intriguing legend explaining the origin of these rock formations, which I’ll of course explain in this article.

So, you have every reason to read this post carefully to the end!

👉Did you know that the Giant’s Causeway is featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s album Houses of the Holy?

How was the Giant’s Causeway formed?

Calçada dos Gigantes que se estende até ao mar.
Causeway extending into the sea.
Formação geológia da Calçada dos Gigantes, na Irlanda do Norte.
Geological formation of the causeway in Northern Ireland.
Dimensão da Calçada dos Gigantes, em comparação com um adolescente.
The dimensions of the causeway, compared to a teenager.

The Giant’s Causeway was formed during a volcanic eruption, where magma rose to the Earth’s crust and infiltrated the limestone rock formations of the region.

This hot magma, with temperatures exceeding 1000°C, cooled and solidified upon contact with the air.

As the magma slowly cooled, regular hexagonal cracks formed on the surface.

As the magma continued to cool internally, these cracks extended, forming the distinctive basalt columns resembling pencils.

The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway

Calçada dos Gigantes junto ao mar
A lenda da Calçada dos Gigantes.
The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway.

According to local tradition, the origin of the impressive rock formations known as the Giant’s Causeway is associated with a legend involving the Irish giant Finn MacCool challenging the Scottish giant Benandonner.

The story goes that faced with the impossibility of crossing the sea to confront his rival, Finn built a causeway with enormous stone columns, connecting the two countries.

Benandonner accepted the challenge and used the causeway to reach Ireland, but upon seeing that the Scottish giant was much stronger, Finn’s wife disguised him as a baby.

Upon seeing the supposed size of the “baby,” Benandonner retreated, destroying the causeway as he fled, leaving only the stones that today form the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Our experience visiting the Giant’s Causeway

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Autocarro na Calçada dos Gigantes.
Bus at the Giant’s Causeway.
Visitar a Calçada dos Gigantes com crianças.
Visiting the causeway with children.

I visited the Giant’s Causeway on a day tour from Dublin that also included a stop in Belfast.

To reach the Giant’s Causeway, we had to walk a path that took about 20 minutes on foot. Alternatively, we could buy a ticket for a shuttle that makes the journey in less than five minutes, but it costs £1 per trip.

Well, there were four of us and the walk is beautiful and not difficult, at least on the way down, so we decided it was better not to pay for the transportation.

Multidão de pessoas a caminho da Calçada dos Gigantes.
Crowd of people on their way to the causeway.
Explorar a Calçada dos Gigantes.
Exploring the Giant’s Causeway.
Turistas a explorar a Calçada dos Gigantes.
Tourists exploring the causeway.

So we had to walk down and meanwhile we enjoyed the surrounding landscape.

However, something strange happened, that on the descent and despite not being the only group on the Giant’s Causeway, almost everyone was silent and we did not understand why.

When we finally reached the sidewalk, it was hard not to be dazzled by the magnificent work of nature.

These geometric formations really seem to have been created and placed there by man.

Everything you need to know before visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Calçada dos Gigantes
Visitar a Calçada dos Gigantes, na Irlanda do Norte.
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Where is the Giant’s Causeway located?

The Giant’s Causeway is situated about 3 km from the village of Bushmills in County Antrim, approximately an hour from Belfast.

Best way to get there and visit?

Giants Causeway

The best way to visit the Giant’s Causeway is by car, whether renting one from Belfast or Dublin.

There are also tours that visit this place, but they have many limitations. I took a tour departing from Dublin, but if I were to go today, I would prefer to go by car and not worry about schedules.

Are there cafes or restaurants near the Giant’s Causeway?

1497442099325fc60fcc7dbc1f3c653842f66435f5

There are no cafes or restaurants near the causeway, so it’s best to bring along some snacks.

Is it safe to visit the Giant’s Causeway?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to visit the Giant’s Causeway.

This spectacular site in Northern Ireland is a natural wonder and a popular tourist attraction, so the area is well-maintained with safe trails and proper signage to guide visitors.

However, it’s important to follow the guidelines provided, stay on designated paths, and adhere to safety regulations.

Additionally, the area is regularly monitored and patrolled to ensure visitor safety.

It’s advisable to pay attention to weather conditions, wear appropriate hiking footwear, and respect local guidelines for a safe and enjoyable visit.

What is the best time of year to visit the Giant’s Causeway?

1497442129103287c66ed8b9354e2517e26e615080
Cuidados a ter ao visitar a Calçada dos Gigantes em dias de chuva.
Precautions to take when visiting the causeway on rainy days.

The causeway is open year-round; however, on rainy days, walking on the basalt can become dangerous.

Therefore, the best time to visit is in the summer when the chances of rain and wind are lower. I visited in April, and despite some rain, the walk was quite enjoyable.

Are there educational information available about the geological formation of the Giant’s Causeway on site?

Mapa de o que ver na Calçada dos Gigantes.
Map of what to see at the Giant’s Causeway.

There are no explanatory panels about the Giant’s Causeway on-site, so if you want additional information about this place, the suggestion I can give is to join an organized tour group that includes the support of a guide.

Please note that some tours only provide transportation to the entrance of the causeway.

In other words, you won’t have access to a guide and will need to pay for the bus to the tourist attraction if you don’t want to walk.

Remember, it’s about a 20-minute walk from the parking lot at the entrance to the seaside location where the rock formations are.

What are the additional activities or attractions nearby?

1497442067b24329979b5d57cf7c9b4686cf0ec364
Dunseverick Castle, perto da Calçada dos Gigantes.
Dunseverick Castle, near the causeway.
Conhecer Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Exploring the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Fila para atravessar Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Long queue to cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
A ponte de cordas suspensa perto de Belfast, na Irlanda do Norte.
The suspension rope bridge near Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Passagem pela ponte de corda de Carrick-A-Rede.
Crossing the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.
Pessoas a atravessar a ponte de corda de Carrick-A-Rede.
People crossing the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.

About a 10-minute drive from the causeway, you can visit the enigmatic ruins of Dunseverick Castle.

Furthermore, another 10-minute drive will take you to another tourist attraction in Northern Ireland: the stunning Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.

Final tips to include in your planning

Calçada dos Gigantes com pessoas
  • Wear appropriate footwear as you will need to walk on foot;
  • Be careful when climbing the stones as they are slippery, especially in rainy conditions.

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