The Giant’s Causeway: the science and the myths

Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO Heritage site on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Ireland, county Antrim.  Scientists discovered that this geological formation had formed 60 million years ago. The climate on Earth was much warmer at that time and lava flowed from the cracks in the crust of the earth. Then the lava cooled and plants started to take roots and grow. Later the process repeated itself but the climate was much cooler and the lava cooled faster. Top layers of the lava cooled faster than lower layers and vertical cracks were formed. Again plants and trees began to grow covering the cooled lava with sediment. But during the last ice age, about 15 million years ago, weather, wind and erosion revealed these basalt vertical columns of hexagon shape.  These now look like honeycombs.


However, the name ‘Giant’s Causeway’ came from a legend. Once an Irish giant Finn McCool lived in this place and his worst enemy was a Scottish giant called Benandonner, who lived across the sea. Finn McCool was determined to challenge the Scottish giant to fight him. In order to do this, he built the causeway, putting together the hexagon shaped rocks. When the causeway was completed and Finn got close to his rival he saw that Benandonner was gigantic. Finn turned around and ran back as fast as he could. He even lost his boot during his retreat, which is still there on the shore of Port Noffer.

Giant's boot
Giant’s boot

He ran into his home and told everything to his wife. Meanwhile the Scottish giant was approaching and his steps were so loud that McCool had to plug his ears with tons of moss. Finn’s wife Oonagh was smart. She dressed Finn as a baby and told him to behave accordingly. When the Scottish giant knocked on the door, she let him in and told him that her husband is out hunting. She also invited him to see their baby. Benandonner realized that if the baby is so big, the father must be gigantic and ran back to Scotland. On his way he tore down the causeway so very little of it is left. The proof of this legend is at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish Island of Staffa, where similar hexagonal columns, the other part of the Giant’s Causeway, can be seen. (To be continued.)


  1. […] The Giant’s Causeway has an irresistible vibe created by strong ocean wind, crushing waves and unusual rock formations that awaken a visitor’s imagination. No wonder its wild beauty became an inspiration for local folklore. Almost every rock or rock formation has its name and a legend associated with it. Examples of these are the Honeycombs, the Wish Chair, the Organ, the Giant’s Boot, the Peeled Onion, and the Camel. […]


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