The Giant's Causeway, the source of legends of gigantic proportions, is a 50 to 60 million year old landmark of Ireland's natural and mystical beauty. Located in County Antrim, the causeway was named the fourth greatest natural wonder of the United Kingdom and is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.
Geological evidence suggests that the Giant's Causeway was formed by the aftermath of an ancient volcano. Sixty five million years ago, County Antrim experienced intense volcanic activity, when molten basalt broke apart chalk beds to form what is now known as the Antrim plateau. When the molten lava hit the seawater, it cooled quickly and formed the famous basalt columns. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which the lava cools. The tops of the hexagonal columns form stepping stones reaching as high as 36 ft.
It is easy to see how these almost perfectly symmetrical formations would be viewed as otherwordly by our earlier irish ancestors and hot the Giant's Causeway would give rise to colorful legend. Legend claims that the mythical giant and Irish warrior Finn McCool built the Causeway from the North coast of Antrim as a pathway to the Scottish island of Staffa to confront his enemy Benandonner. The existence of similar basalt columns at Fingal's Cave on the island reinforced belief in the legend. The legend tells that Finn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Finn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. When Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the father, Finn, must be gigantic! Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway so that Finn could not follow him.
As the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, the National Trust are expecting to open a new 'world class' visitor center in Summer 2012. The Giant's Causeway is always open and admission is free. Visitor's can expect to spend approximately 2 hours at the Giant's Causeway to gain the full experience. On your visit to the Causeway see if you can spot some of the rock features that resemble objects such as the Giant's Eyes, Giant's Boot, Camel's Hump, Organ and Chimney Stacks. With a short half mile walk over the basalt columns at the edge of the sea, from the entrance to the site, this unique landscape needs to be seen to be believed!
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