The Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, County Antrim is a stunning spectacle that adorns the north coast of Northern Ireland. (map) It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2015 was awarded the UK’s Best Heritage Attraction at the British Travel Awards. As well as this it is located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The causeway is made up of approximately 40,000 hexagonal-shaped basalt columns, which were the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. Although legend has a different explanation: that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by an Irish giant Finn MacCool, was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant called Benandonner. Finn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the sea between Ireland and Scotland so that the two giants could meet. However Finn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Finn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Finn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa.
How ever the causeway was created it is a spectacular sight and well worth a visit. Make sure you see the Giant’s Boot: Apparently lost by Finn as he fled from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner, the boot is reputed to be a size 93.5! Also have a seat on the Wishing Chair, which is a natural throne formed from a perfectly arranged set of columns. It has been sat on so often, the basalt stones are shiny, smooth and very comfortable! To help you explore fully there are four different trails suited to every ability, from a pram friendly stroll to a challenging coastal hike and in addition, there is a new accessible cliff top walk for families and people with disabilities. The area is suitable for picnics, cliff top and country walks, and most importantly dogs are welcome on leads. (You wouldn’t want them off of the lead on the cliff top anyway!) There is also a shuttle bus that travels the short distance from the snazzy visitor centre down to the causeway, which my elderly parents appreciated greatly. It meant they could enjoy the causeway close up and then return to the centre for a coffee whilst Hoover and I went and explored at length.
You need to buy a ticket at the visitor centre to access the Causeway, and as dogs are not permitted inside the centre you’ll need to leave your four-legged friend in the car whilst you do this if you’re visiting alone, but once you’ve paid your entry fee you can wander together to your mutual hearts’ content…
The day before we visited I was given a top tip: If you want to avoid the crowds then go at 9am when the site opens, as by just after 10am the coach parties start to appear. This isn’t a problem as far as space is concerned as the area is huge so there is ample room for everybody, but if you want to avoid lots of brightly coloured anoraks on the rocks in your photographs you’ll need to get there before them!