The Giants-causeway, Antrim, Ireland
Geology and Myth
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.
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.
Myths behind the magic
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…