Tuesday Oct 25, 2016

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway was one of the most beautiful and interesting sights in Northern Ireland. is an area of about 40,000 interlocking massive black basalt columns sticking out from the sea, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, about 60 million years ago. It is also known as Clochán an Aifir. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and in 2015 was awarded the UKs Best Heritage Attraction at the British Travel Awards. It was discovered around 1690 and at that time there were lots of arguments as to whether the Causeway had been created by men with picks and chisels, by nature, or by the efforts of a giant. Only in 1771 was it discovered that it was caused by a volcano.

But the story of the giants is what gives this place its name, and the place is steeped in myth and legend. So here is the rest of the story: Finn McCool was a gentle, but relatively small giant standing only 52.5 feet high. But across the sea was a Scottish giant, Benandonner, who was terrifyingly massive, and the two would shout at each other across the sea of Moyle, each demanding a trail of strength. Finn formed a path by grabbing chunks of the Antrim coast and throwing them into the sea. This was hard work and he came back and fell asleep. His wife, Oonagh, found him the next morning sound asleep and heard the heavy footsteps of Benandonner. She realized that Finn would be no match for this giant Giant. So, thinking quickly, she put a bonnet on Finn’s head and covered him with a baby blanket. When Benandonner arrived, he bellowed for Finn. “Where is that coward?” Oonagh replied, “Shh, you will wake up the bairn (baby).”  Benandonner looked at the “baby” and panicked.  “If the baby is this big, how much bigger must Finn be?!” he thought. Rather than waiting around to find out, he ran back across to Scotland, breaking the rocks along the way. (Once again, a woman saves the day!)  Mythical landscapes, magical tales.

We climbed over some of the columns of this natural playground and jungle gym, but then decided it was too slippery and too dangerous for us, although there were lots of people, and children, doing it. In fact, the place was overrun with people. Crowded. But we had fun as we marveled at what nature creates. And the colorful jackets did add that splash of color to the black and beige columns.

The Visitor Center at the Causeway

The Visitor Center at the Causeway is also a sight to behold. It rises and blends into the landscape, with walls and ceiling of glass and basalt columns. We started in the Visitor Center where we picked up free audio guides. We donned our hats and coats and gloves and headed out to walk along the cause and climb on the basalt columns. The rocks along the way form chairs, and witches and camels and other creatures. But the true sight is all the basalt six-sided columns, in different heights, in black and in beige, forming what looks like a honeycomb. Surrounded by the green mountains and the very blue ocean, made this about a perfect a place as ever to see the wonders of nature.

The Nook

We had time for a quick lunch so we dashed into a restaurant right next door that Colm had recommended, the Nook. We had about 40 minutes before we had to catch the bus back. We reviewed the menu which was typical with soup, sandwiches, Irish stew, beef stew with Guinness, fish and chips etc. We went to the bar to place our order and were told they would bring it out. We knew we didn’t have a lot of time, so Andy and I each ordered a large bowl of tomato soup, the soup of the day. 15 minutes later, when we still had not been served, I went up to the bar to check. The woman behind the bar ran to the kitchen, came back and said it’ll be right out. It took another 10 minutes for a bowl of soup to appear. We then had to eat very quickly in order not to keep all our tour mates waiting. Not a good way to enjoy one’s lunch. If you are going to visit the Giant’s Causeway (and it is worth a stop), eat at the Visitor’s Center instead.