Northern Ireland is home to a World Heritage Site. Legend has it that the great warrior giant Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill) lived here. It is one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It is, of course, The Giant’s Causeway.
I remember being fascinated by the story of Finn MacCool and clambering over the rocks wide-eyed and excitedly on a family trip here as a young child. But, one of the downsides of growing up (of which I am finding more every year) is that unfortunately, memory fades.Top of my list since returning home has been to revisit this historic site which draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
I don’t know many people brave enough to bet on Irish weather, and February is an unpredictable month at best, so at the first glimpse of some morning sun, I grabbed my car keys and zoomed off to the North Coast to get my next culture fix. The Giant’s Causeway is situated on the North-East coast of Northern Ireland, just a few miles north of Bushmills, Co. Antrim, home of the world-famous whiskey distillery.
This incredible rock formation was created from a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago resulting in over 40,000 polygonal basalt columns on this small patch of the coast. As it pushed its way through the chalk bed it formed a lava plateau which, whilst cooling, fractured into these mostly hexagonal shapes. The various heights of the columns indicate the speed at which the lava cooled.
Okay, I’ll stop now before I sound like an over-enthusiastic geography teacher…
After exploring the columns at ground level I headed to the cliff-top trail for a bird’s eye view of the area, and luckily the sunshine followed me. This is one of my favourite scenic spots in the world.
The sun may have been shining but the coastal wind was icy, and as I am notoriously bad at dressing accordingly, it was time to make a swift return further inland to take a peek at the newly opened Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre. The centre prides itself on being green by using sustainable management and design wherever possible, and in its first year has received several awards, including The Skål International ‘Sustainable Development in Tourism’ award in New York, beating off 26 stiff competitors from all over the world!
Visitors can make use of state of the art interactive exhibitions to learn about the geology, biodiversity, myths and legends of the The Giant’s Causeway, as well as refuel on some locally produced cuisine in its cosy little cafe. Alternatively, there are plenty of little eateries in nearby Bushmills, perfect for a spot of lunch whilst exploring the area.
With every trip I make, I feel a surge of pride for the UK and Ireland, and what it has to offer. I’ve been home just over 3 months now and am without doubt starting to feel more settled again at this side of the world, as the weeks go on. I guess it’s true what they say…
You can take the girl out of Ireland, but it seems you can never truly take Ireland out of the girl.
Until next time…