Having grown up on Celtic soil, I’m rather partial to a good piece of folklore. Scotland is home to many a myth and legend, and so too is Ireland – a country I’d longed to visit since I was a child.
Luckily for me, after starting university in Edinburgh in 2008, I came across a rather wonderful bunch of folk from Northern Ireland. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years, I’ve visited Northern Ireland several times, and it’s a country I’ve grown to love and admire for many reasons – the people, the culture, the landscapes, the accents…
One thing I’d been determined to do from day one was to visit the Giant’s Causeway. In 2010, along with some family friends, I got to do just that.
From Belfast, the drive takes about an hour and a half. As we round our way around the beautiful Irish coast, I couldn’t believe they’d kept this place from me for all this time. That’s the thing about Northern Irish folk; they’re so humble about their country, and yet it’s achingly beautiful.
After finally arriving at the Northern point of Antrim, we parked the car and headed down a long, sloping path to be greeted by a sea of people heading in the same direction.
“Trust us to come on the one day a year that the sun is shining,” we sighed.
By the time we reached the shore, I began to understand the site’s popularity. As I took in my first views of the causeway, everything else seemed to pale into insignificance.
Jutting out of the sea were bizarre, rugged rocks, the like of which I had never seen before. Tall, angular pieces towered from above, while hexagonal structures grouped together along the skerries to form a giant honeycomb-like structure. I could immediately see why the locals had turned to folklore to explain the rock formations – the shapes were so unusual, and yet so immaculate in their design, that it was hard to believe this was not a man-made creation – that it was not, indeed, created by some strange and mysterious being.
According to the myth, the causeway was built by an Irish warrior named Finn McCool (I know – only the Irish could have come up with a name so utterly great…). McCool built the causeway to Scotland so that he could fight a giant named Benandonner, yet quickly realised that his enemy was much larger than first anticipated.
Determined to outwit Benandonner, McCool sought the help of his wife, who disguised him as a baby, albeit a rather oversized one. When Benandonner made it to Irish soil and saw the disguised McCool, he decided to retreat, reasoning that if his opponant’s baby was that size, then he must indeed be a most fearful and indestructible giant. Benandonner returned to Scotland, destroying the causeway as he went. And so the legend remains.
Of course, you could always take the advice of geologists, and assume that the rocks are the result of a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago, but where’s the fun in that?
Whatever you choose to believe, there’s no denying the beauty, not only of the formations, but of the surrounding scenery too. Never before, and never again, have I seen grass so green – its presence made all the more enchanting by the reflections cast upon the vast, clear rockpools. There’s something incredibly fairytale-esque about this part of the country, and it’s easy to see why Northern Ireland has become increasingly popular as a location for film and TV programmes such as Game of Thrones.
I was completely spellbound by the causeway, and despite the fact that you’re almost 99% guaranteed not to get the weather we did, I would strongly recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting Northern, or, for that matter, Southern Ireland. If you’re taking the Coastal Causeway Route, be sure to check out some of the other highlights along the way – Portrush, the Nine Glens of Antrim, and the oldest whiskey distillery in the world are just a few of the treats in store along this incredible coastal path.