Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Photo: Chmee2 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Chmee2 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Do you plan vacations around UNESCO World Heritages Sites? It’s not a surprise. This list includes some of the most culturally and physically amazing places in the world. Italy, China, and Spain are each home to more than 40 sites—it’d almost be hard not to see one during your visit. But Northern Ireland, a country you’re considering for your next trip, has only one spot on the list. Don’t let that deter you. The single location is well worth the detour.

More than 40,000 basalt columns dot the northeastern coast of Northern Ireland. Giant’s Causeway look like stepping-stones that lead from the foot of a cliff out into the sea until they disappear. Scientists estimate that the mostly hexagonal columns are the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. According to legend, a giant tried to walk across the sea to Scotland without getting his feet wet. Regardless which version you believe, Giant’s Causeway and the surrounding Causeway Coast are stunning.

After driving to County Antrim and parking, a shuttle will take you the last mile toward the sea. Along the way, you see unusual plants like frog orchids and vernal squills. Seabirds consider the protected area a haven. Fulmars, redshanks, and guillemots vastly outnumber people. While the dark lava starts to look like actual columns as you get closer and closer.

Carefully walk out onto the slippery rocks. See the Giant’s Eyes, the Honeycomb, and the Chimney Stacks formations. Small waves crash and spray. See Port-na-Spania, the spot where the 16th-century Spanish Armada Girona crashed against the rocks; its gold and jewels were only recovered in 1967. Walk up the wooden staircase to Benbane Head—the country’s northernmost point—for a breathtaking view of the coast. Then return to see the Giant’s Boot and the Wishing Well. While taking photos, you get soaked by a sudden swell.

Now wet and chilly, you’re ready to leave Giant’s Causeway. Drive three miles to the little town of Bushmills. A tour and a tasting of single malts at Old Bushmills Distillery should warm you up quickly, even if it’s not on the UNESCO list.

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3 thoughts on “Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

  1. Its great that NI draws a crowd to see the Causeway, but while up there i would highly recommend wandering just a little bit further along and checking out other places on tge Causeway Coast walking route. Honestly, even as a local its beyond stunning. For an easy sample, stop at Dunseverick Castle just up the road from the GC. First impressions as you look at (what seems) like just two piles of bricks, might not be good, and i agree, but climb over the (right hand) stile at the small roadside carpark there, then continue to walk right around the grassy headland and just wait until you see whats ahead of you. Its awe inspiring. And you will walk for miles with your jaw dropping. Once you realize i know what im talking about, you can then go further afield and check out the walks around Balintoy, Whitepark Bay (where ypu 100% WILL find a fossil strewn on the beach just at your feet), Downhill, Gortmore, Binevenagh, Benone, and of course Carrick-a-rede are all areas of outstanding natural beauty. Its time to put this place on the world map, and while its in its infancy, i personally aim to do that on my own page. Forget the big building about a boat that sank when you come here, forget black taxi tours of those murals (commemorating bizarrely things that STOPPED people coming here for years) and see the real Northern Ireland 😉

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