Weird Places Around The World: The Giant’s Causeway

the giant's causeway

Weird Places Around The World: The Giant’s Causeway

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Are you tired of the usual tourist stops?  Are you looking for something strange or unusual to add that special something to your vacation plans?  Then this is the place for you … The Giant’s Causeway.

ireland

Note people on the Giant’s Causeway/Image courtesy of Ireland.com

The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland

Once you’ve seen all there is to see in England, why not head for Northern Ireland and check out the Giant’s Causeway?  It’s an unusual area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.  The columns were caused by an ancient volcanic eruption that spewed out molten basalt sixty million years ago.

Also known as  Clochán na bhFomhórach or Clochán an Aifir in Irish and the Giant’s Causey in Ulster-Scots, this unusual site is situated on the north coast of Northern Ireland in County Antrim.  It’s less than three miles away from the town of Bushmills.  In 1986 it was officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  

UNESCO

The Giant’s Causeway UNESCO marker/Image courtesy of Original Owner

The following year it was made a national nature reserve and today is considered by some local sources to be the fourth greatest natural wonder in the UK.  The tops of the Giant’s Causeway columns appear to create stepping stones that run from the foot of the cliff to somewhere under the sea.  While some of the columns have between four, five, seven or even eight sides, the majority of the columns are hexagonal.

The tallest columns are nearly 39 feet high.  The solidified lava within the cliffs there is as thick as 92 feet in some spots.  The National Trust reports that more recently the site has it has actually become one of the “most popular” tourist spots in the country.  

youtube

Read the legend/Image courtesy of YouTube

The Legend

Local legend has it that the columns are what is left of a causeway constructed by a giant.  Specifically, the giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool in English), of the Fenian Cycle of ancient Gaelic mythology was challenged to a battle by a Scottish giant named Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge.  Fionn is said to have built a causeway all the way across the North Channel so that he and Benandonner could meet for their fight.

Some say Fionn beat Benandonner.  Others say that when Fionn realizes how much smaller he is than Benandonner that he runs away and hides.  Oonagh, Fionn’s wife, disguises him as a baby and puts him in a cradle.

Upon seeing the size of the “baby”, Benandonner thinks that Fionn, his father must be a “giant among giants”, becomes scared and runs back home to Scotland wrecking the causeway behind him so Fionn could not follow.  This version of the story’s ending may have been inspired by the identical basalt columns from the same lava flow across the sea at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa.  The Irish name  Clochán na bhFomhórach or Clochán na bhFomhóraigh literally translates to  “stepping stones of the Fomhóraigh” a race of supernatural individuals from Irish mythology.  

They were sometimes referred to as giants and could have their roots in some pre-Christian pantheon of characters.  No other stories about the Giant’s Causeway have survived the passage of time.  Immortalized on the album cover of Led Zeppelin’s Grammy-nominated 1973 album Houses of the Holy, the Giant’s Causeway remains famous to this day.

houses of the holy

Left: “House of the Holy” album cover, Right: The Giant’s Causeway/Image courtesy of World Press