In County Antrim, Northern Ireland, lies a volcanic puzzle which is a source of fascination for many curious travellers. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, the Giant’s Causeway dominates the coastline, surrounded by green meadows . A breath-taking landscape, whose sheer brutality strikes curious travellers who come to explore the region. Over 40,000 blocks stand side-by-side, looking like they were meticulously assembled. However, nature created this geometric wonder without human help.
Rooted in legend
Legend has it that two giants, Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Benandonner, an Irishman and a Scotsman, hated each other. Following yet another argument, Fionn, the Irishman, decided to confront his rival face-to-face. He built a bridge out of stone columns so Benandonner could reach Ireland without getting his feet wet. When Fionn’s wife saw this enormous giant crossing the bridge, she was very worried and so disguised her husband as a baby to hide him. When he saw the ‘baby’, Benandonner took fright, thinking that its father must be truly ginormous, and fled back to Scotland, destroying part of the causeway behind him. The Irish are particularly fond of these legends, which they are brought up on from a very young age.
A complicated geological phenomenon
We must look to geology for a more rational explanation of these stone blocks. It all started with a magma flow during the Cenozoic era, some 66 million years ago. Cooling very quickly, the lava solidified and turned into igneous rock: basalt. The site lies on the Antrim Plateau which was created by layers of lava flows: a trapp. The change in temperature then fragmented the basalt into columns, first vertically, then horizontally. Finally, marine erosion took care of smoothing the surface, so creating a true geometric plateau. The sequence that can be seen by the naked eye can be used to analyse the various events that have shaped the landscape.
This basalt mystery provides the ideal opportunity to go on excursions in Ireland and Northern Ireland, from Dublin to Belfast, and why not venture over to Great Britain, which is brimming with hidden treasures too?