Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Introduction

Giant’s Causeway is a formation of large black basalt columns in Northern Ireland that appear to form steps.

Overall, the site has more than 40,000 of these interlocking columns, creating a unique appearance.

Why Is It Famous?

The unique appearance of Giant’s Causeway, with its volcanic-formed pillars that appear to function as stepping stones, has led to its fame.

What’s Nearby?

The Giant’s Causeway sits along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, where you will also find Whiterocks Beach and Dunluce Castle. This entire area is in the County Antrim within Northern Ireland’s north coast. The closest town is Bushmills, which is around three miles away.

Geological Description

The over 40,000 hexagonal columns of black basalt likely formed due to volcanic activity around 50 to 60 million years ago. Geologists believe that the variations in the sizes of the columns are due to the lava cooling at different speeds. The columns line up perfectly to create stepping stones spanning from the foot of the cliff to the sea. Most columns in the Giant’s Causeway are hexagonal. Some also have eight, seven, five, or four sides. The columns can be as thick as 28 meters and as tall as 12 meters.

The formation began during the Paleocene Epoch with volcanic activity. The basalt that was molten and therefore, highly fluid spread through chalk beds to create a lava plateau. The lava contracted as it cooled, causing fractures. Those fractures led to cracks and the pillar-like structures.

Events in Time

According to legend, Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill and Scottish giant Benandonner hated each other. Fionn built the path to reach Scotland via stepping stones after too many insults. Legend says that Benandonner ripped up the stepping stones, resulting in the current Giant’s Causeway.

UNESCO declared the Giant’s Causeway a World Heritage Site in 1986, and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland declared it a national nature reserve the following year.

In Conclusion

The Giant’s Causeway is the result of lava from 50 or 60 million years ago and appears as a series of 40,000 hexagonal columns made of black basalt.