The Giant's Causeway, often referred to by the locals as the eighth wonder of the world and declared as Ireland's first World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1986, lies about 15 miles from Ballycastle. It consists of a 40,000 of polygonal basalt columns, some 6ft in height, all side-by-side and is explored by 350,000 visitors yearly. Among the many theories and local legends, the most scientific reason for these formations is that about 55 million years ago during the early Tertiary period lava flowed from a nearby volcano and settled on the shore. The facts and legends are vividly presented in the Visitors Centre. The site is also home to over 200 varieties of plant species and birds such as the Chough and Peregrine Falcon.
It is called the Giant's Causeway because of a legend about the quarrel between two giant's called Finn Mac Cool and Benandonner. Benandonner is said to have built a causeway from Scotland to fight with Finn Mac Cool, Finn Mac Cool pretended to be a baby in a pram and his mother told Benandonner that the baby was Finn Mac Cool's brother Finn Gal. When Benandonner saw how strong the baby was, he thought that Finn Mac Cool would be stronger than him and he ran back across the sea to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went. He left in such a hurry that he his boot came off and it is still here today. As well as the boot there are also shapes of a camel and pipe organs in the walls of the cliffs.
The small white line which is visible just above the shadow in the right most image is actually a footpath with spectacular views of the breath-taking coastline. Also along this path you will see Port na Spaniagh where Spanish Armada 'galleass' Girona foundered in October 1588 when Don Alonzo Martinez, Senor de la Casa de Levia de Rioja was on the run with 1300 men and all his valuables crammed on board. Only nine men survived and for almost four hundred years it's treasure lay undiscovered eluding treasure hunters but in 1967 it was rediscovered and ducats, muskets, jeweled chains, golden cameos and even ink wells are now shown in the Ulster Museum.
The main 13 hectare site was given to The National Trust in 1961 when Sir McNaghten bequeathed in his will and in later years the NT purchased a further 57 hectares of the surrounding coastline although small parts are still owned by local people and the visitor centre and car park are owned by Moyle District Council.
I recently walked the full coastal path and realised there is a lot more to the site that the visitors' centre if you would like to see more photos and info on this click here.
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