Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

The giants causeway

Geology and Myth

Giants causeway formations 1

It was on a very wet October morning that we arrived at the giants causeway, its located just outside of the town of Bushmills, county Antrim, on the north Irish coast.

Its a national trust site so you have to pay a fee to get in to the area. Its a small walk from the visitors center to the causeway itself but its well worth it.

This is both a magical and mythical location and one of the worlds most geologically fascinating places.

I took the following images on the day and even though it was very wet and dull I think they get across the feeling you have when your walking around this site. I have added some information as the the geology and the myth’s associated with this truly wonderful place.

Giants causeway landscape

The Geology of the causeway

Giant’s Causeway, ( Irish: Clochán an Aifir) promontory of basalt columns along 4 miles (6 km) of the northern coast of Northern Ireland. It lies on the edge of the Antrim plateau between Causeway Head and Benbane Head, some 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Derry. There are approximately 40,000 of these stone pillars, each typically with five to seven irregular sides, jutting out of the cliff faces as if they were steps creeping into the sea.

Formed 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, the Giant’s Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching toward the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea. Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 metres) in height. They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 330 feet (100 metres) in elevation.

Giants causeway formations 4

Myths behind the magic

The Legend

Thanks to Kirribilli for this re-telling:

Long, long ago there lived a mighty warrior who was known across the length and breadth of Erin for his strength and bravery, no man on the island was his match and apart from repelling the hoards and the armies that attempted to invade our green land, being the best can be a bit boring and Fionn mac Cumhaill needed a challenge, he needed to prove to himself that he was the greatest warrior both on and off the island.

At that time the scourge of Scotland was a giant called Benandonner and on hearing tales of this beast of a man, Fionn knew that if he could beat this giant, his name would be known the world over. He made his way up to the Ulster coast, shouted across the water at Benandonner and challenged him to a fight.

Now normal people would take a boat and sail across the sea but not these two, they set upon ripping huge rocks out of the ground and throwing them into the sea separating Ireland from Scotland until after hours and days of back-breaking work there stretched a rocky causeway linking the two lands.

They’d agreed to fight between their two lands and seeing that bridge was complete, they made their way across the land bridge. As they approached each other it became apparent how big Benandonner really was, this wasn’t just a big man, this was a true giant.

Now Fionn was not a small man himself but the sheer size of the Scottish giant scared him, suddenly a fight with a monster like that wasn’t as appealing…

So he ran.

But not too far, once he was out of Benandonner’s sight he disguised himself as a baby, which was somewhat apt as he always had his best ideas when he sucked his thumb.

When Benandonner found the baby he asked it who its father was, he was told the baby was Fionn mac Cumhaill’s. When he heard this and saw the size of the baby, he imagined how big the father would be, he would be gigantic, he wouldn’t stand a chance, so he ran.

He ran back to the land of the Scots and on his way back he made sure to destroy the bridge, lest Fionn ever come looking for him…


Giants causeway formations 2

Giants causeway formations 3

Giants causeway formations 1

38 responses

  1. beautiful images ¡¡¡

    June 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    • Hello jserrap 🙂

      Thank you, very pleased you enjoyed them 🙂


      June 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit this site (definitely on my list whenever I make it to your part of the world). We have a good number of similar basaltic formations back home in California and in Oregon but none I know of that are coupled with the drama and dynamic of the sea. Thanks for the story as well! I think your wet day adds to the drama very much by making the color richer – the last three images are excellent – the final one, a knock out! Thanks!

    June 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    • Hello dnikias,

      Thank you , Yep the color in the stones really came through in the wet 🙂

      If you get time would love to get a link to your local sites !

      Thanks again


      June 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      • you name it – will do what I can do be in service but I’m a long way from home right now (living in south India) but will keep you in mind when I return in the next number of months

        June 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      • No problem’s, when ever you have the time – thank you 🙂

        June 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      • so, I just bounced around the net doing a couple quick searches for you – Devil’s Postpile is perhaps one of the best known – a number of good sites and loads of nice photos just a click or two away – not so surprisingly, Wikipedia has a good deal of information under columnar basalt and a list of links on sites all over the world – hope that helps – and I just posted a photo from a basalt outcrop I stumbled upon in Oregon- just for you my friend…
        Best, DN

        June 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      • Thank you 🙂

        June 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  3. 1annecasey

    Stunning images and beautiful account Nigel.

    June 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    • Hello Anne, 🙂

      Thank you, very pleased you enjoyed 🙂

      June 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

  4. Was there myself in 1996. Beautiful pics and, yes, I know about the legend about the ‘walkaway’ to and from Scotland…. 🙂

    June 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    • Hello Gc,

      Thank you for your comment and like, very pleased you enjoyed 🙂

      June 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  5. Stunning images Nigel! The stones look as though they were placed there by man. Amazing place! 🙂

    June 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    • Hello Norma, Yes its an amazing effect and truly hard to get your mind around, even when its full explained in the visitors center .

      June 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

  6. artscottnet

    Amazing images, Nigel

    June 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  7. yes, very interesting – thank you! Andy

    June 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

  8. Excellent Nigel, some of your best IMHO. The contrasting colours come out really well, particularly the golden….It is a top site. MM

    June 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    • Thank you Mick 🙂 that’s a Brilliant and very welcomed comment 🙂

      June 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

  9. The tiny vertical photo at the top of the post looks like maybe New York City if you aren’t looking at it really closely. Had to smile when I saw what it actually was!

    June 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  10. Heh. I love a good legend!

    June 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    • Hello Elen 🙂

      Great! I will do my best to get you more 🙂

      June 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm

  11. Those are spectacular formations and just terrific photos, Nigel. That first image looks like a city skyline! The water really adds depth (ha) to the color of the rocks. Interesting myth, too :-).

    June 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    • Hello Sharon,

      Thank you 🙂

      I still find the place amazing.

      The other side of the formation in Scotland, is on the island of Mull. I was there about ten years ago and it looks exactly the same, so even though its a myth its based on some sound geology – at least !

      June 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      • I’d love to see them someday!

        June 13, 2013 at 12:19 am

  12. One of my favourite stories…

    June 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm

  13. Magnificent images!! I’m so jealous!

    June 14, 2013 at 4:12 am

  14. Wonderful place, i’d really like to travel there,, thanks for sharing. Nice photos too, and the last one is awesome, colors and framing close to perfection 🙂

    June 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm

  15. Love this entry – the images, the background, the story. Your image selection really gives a sense of the place with people giving scale, and the tones and textures providing the context. Had never heard of this so thanks for offering a small touch of it.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

  16. These are impressive pictures! Espacially the last one is my favorite. Do you know where the yellow colour comes from? The black formation i probably because the columns are wet … but the yellow ones?

    June 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    • Hello Jan..

      Thank you for your visit and comment, I can only think that because the rock was Molten Lava when it was formed that different elements settled at different levels due to their mass etc…

      Very good question, I will dig some more – Thank you

      June 18, 2013 at 10:21 am

  17. poppytump

    Love those colours Nigel . Aren’t these geological formations just something else . Great contrasts and if one wasn’t moved and wondering by looking and walking over them … well …
    I bet it gets really wild weather up round there at times !

    June 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

  18. unusual rock formations well captured giving any viewer a sense of “being there”
    I have seen many seacoasts but must say these are different.

    June 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    • Hello 🙂

      Thank you and I am very pleased that you enjoyed this post 🙂

      June 23, 2013 at 10:07 pm

  19. Thanks for sharing the mythology and your fine pictures. Now I know where I would like to spend my next holiday 🙂
    All the best

    July 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    • Hello…

      A pleasure and you should go if you can, you would love the north coast of Ireland. Great landscape and villages as well as the causeway.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.