Remember Fionn, who acquired all the knowledge on Earth from his burnt fishy finger? Well over time, Ireland’s storytellers fashioned him into a giant named Finn McCool, who lived with his giantess wife and children on the coast of Northern Ireland.
Expecting a challenge in single-combat from his Scottish neighbor, Benandonner, Finn built the famous causeway as an arena in which to fight.
Yet, after spying Benandonner from a distance, Finn is distraught to find that his opponent is much larger and stronger than he. Certain that he’ll suffer defeat, Finn flees home to his wife Oonagh (the brains of the family), who hastily forms a plan. She orders Finn to squeeze into their young son’s clothes and to lay in his small cot—just in time, as Benandonner soon begins pounding on their door.
Oonagh invites Benandonner in for a cup of tea, explaining that her husband is out herding cows. The giant accepts, but quickly grows impatient, peppering her with inquiries about Finn’s whereabouts.
Finally, Oonagh offers to show him their “son”, pointing out the cot in which Finn is feigning sleep. At the sight of him, Benandonner springs up, fleeing from the house in fright!
After all, if this is the size of their child, how big must the father be? He darts across the causeway, ripping it apart behind him to ensure that Finn cannot follow.
Clearly, Benandonner was not the sharpest tool in the shed.
This tale is well-known throughout Ireland; it’s even told in primary school. Likewise, the Giant’s Causeway is easily one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations—complete with a swanky visitor center, gift shop, and audio tours.
Set out down the road towards the causeway, and you’ll soon swap the pungent smell of sheep for the salty spray of the Atlantic.
And of course, you’ll find some truly astonishing rocks.
Pair this sight with a stunning ocean view, and it’s easy to see why, even during the blistering cold of January, these awe-inspiring stones are crawling with tourists.
The visitor’s pamphlet explains how this unusual formation was created over millions of years, starting with the ancient supercontinent Pangaea. When it divided to form the Atlantic Ocean, a series of lava flows escaped, which cooled and hardened into plateaus of basalt. This irregular cooling process created a multitude of cracks, which often met other cracks and formed polygonal shapes. Eventually, they became columns, and later uneven rocks and blocks.
Fast forward through the glacial activity of the Ice Age, add thousands of years of pounding wind and waves, and you have the causeway we know today!
Well, that’s the theory; we all know it was really giants…
Travel Details: Giant’s Causeway is in County Antrim, on the northern coast of Ireland, which is an approximately 3-hour drive from Dublin. We rented a car, but there are plenty of options for tour buses offering daytrips here, both from Dublin and Belfast. For those who would prefer not to walk from the visitor center, a shuttle is available.