A Giants Causeway tour is an absolute MUST when in Northern Ireland, or anywhere close. Especially since the Causeway Coast was named as one of the must-visit regions for 2018 by Lonely Planet. The Giant’s Causeway is easily accessible as it’s less than an hour and a half drive away from Belfast, and only just over three hours from Dublin. And it’s a very pretty drive at that.
I’ve visited the Giant’s Causeway three times in the past couple of years. I am basically obsessed with whole Causeway Coast area. The food is incredible, the people are welcoming and the scenery is next level. And if you’re a fan of a certain HBO series then you’ll be fan-girling (or boying) left right and centre over filming locations. So, now I’m teaming up with Topdeck as part of their exciting Ultimate 49 campaign to give you all the info on Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. Let’s go!
About the Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway Legend
Well, obviously, the legend of the Giant’s Causeway involves a giant. Finn McCool (or Fionn MacCumhaill), the giant living where we now see the causeway was having a bit of a tiff with neighbouring giant, Benandonner, across on the Scottish coast. They used to holler across at each other and one day Finn decided he’d had enough, he was going to go over there and fight Benandonner. SO, he used the basalt stones to build columns that formed a causeway across the North Channel over to Scotland.
But, legend has it that when Finn saw Benandonner in the distance he realised that he was a much bigger giant than himself. Naturally he legged it home to his wife, Oonagh, in a panic. Of course, Oonagh knows exactly what to do. She dresses Finn up as a baby and put him in a giant cot (which they apparently had handy). When Benandonner arrives he takes one look at the “baby” and thinks to himself “Jesus, if this is the baby Finn must be the biggest giant that ever lived! I’m not sticking around until he gets back”.
And with that he races back across the causeway, destroying it as he goes so that Finn can never reach him. So that’s the Giant’s Causeway legend which is supposed to explain why the rock formations lead into the sea and why a similar formation can be found on the coast of Scotland.
Giant’s Causeway Facts
There’s a lot to know about the Giants Causeway, but here are some of the basic facts to help you understand the formation. So, to cut a long story short, the columns are made from basalt rock which is formed from cooled lava. This cooled lava contracts and cracks, causing the unusual, mostly hexagonal, shape of the columns.
They look a bit like honeycomb actually. The tallest column is about 39ft tall and there are over 400,000 interlocking stone columns in the causeway. It is consistently the most popular tourist site in Northern Ireland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ok, OK, that’s enough facts for now. Let’s get to the good stuff.
What to Expect On a Tour of the Giants Causeway
The Visitor Centre
The new visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway opened in 2012. Back when I was broke I remember purposely avoiding the visitor centre as I knew you had to pay to go in, but you could just walk down to the causeway for free. However, on more recent visits I took the time to explore the visitor centre. After all, the entry fee is only £10.00 and I’m not completely broke anymore.
You can book tickets online or pay when you get there. If you’re on a tour they’re usually included in the tour package. Inside the visitor centre you’ll find interactive exhibits, a fun video about the Giant’s Causeway legend, a great gift shop full of local crafts, audio guides and, of course, a café full of delicious snacks. Definitely worth the entrance fee. They also have a wheelchair accessible shuttle that takes you down to the causeway for a small fee, but it’s a very easy walk so probably only worth doing if it’s lashing rain or you physically need to.
The Causeway Itself
OK, here we are, it’s the main event, the actual Giant’s Causeway itself. So, what do you need to know? Well, definitely bring a rain coat. There’s a short walk down from the visitor centre to the causeway and it can be miserable if there’s a bit of rain. However, the views are lovely along the walk.
Depending on the time of day or year it can be a bit crowded. If you can, going early(ish) in the morning or later in the afternoon is best. Don’t be off put by the crowds, it is still possible to get a great photo (if that’s what you’re after).
On a health and safety note the stones can be a bit slippery if it’s been raining, so be careful not to wear any ridiculous footwear. I mean, ballet pumps or heels at a site of natural beauty? I think not! I’d probably advise against flip-flops too.
There are a few different formations to keep an eye out for such as the Chimney Stacks, The Harp, The Organ and the Giant’s Boot . And if you’re into birds there’s quite a few species hanging around the causeway. You might spot a petrel, cormorant or a razorbill, to name a few. I mainly mention that because my sister is a birdkeeper and now I seem to end up searching for birds wherever I go!
Also, do take the time to explore and walk around, the Giant’s Causeway isn’t just the first plateau or columns that you come to. There’s plenty of short walks along the coast and cliffs if you have the time. In total you probably won’t need more than 2 hours to explore the site thoroughly and get some great photos.
Giant’s Causeway Accommodation
If you’re planning on staying in the area there’s a few hotels close by. The Causeway Hotel is right next door to the visitor centre. It’s a great spot for lunch too. A little further down the road is the town of Bushmills. The Bushmills Inn is one of my favourite places to stay in Northern Ireland and they serve up a delicious dinner in their restaurant too. Of course, if you’re on a tour, you’ll probably just be at the causeway for a few hours and then head on to another part of the country. BUT, it’s always good to have options.
For those that wanted to enjoy a fun Giants’ Causeway tour and more, Topdeck travel run the perfect Britain and Ireland trip including some great stops in Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- A Guide to the Causeway Coast and Glens
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- A Guide to 48 Hours in Belfast