On the north west coast of Ireland, in County Antrim, is one of the country’s most striking landforms and popular visitor destinations, the world renowned Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway is a rock made of flat-topped polygonal columns that form 40,000 steps. These geometrical shapes give the impression that the Causeway was not formed by natural forces and it is little wonder that they have inspired ancient tales of giants and mythological beings.
The giant of the most popular of ancient myths surrounding the formation of the causeway is Fionn Mac Cumhaill who built it to cross the Irish Sea to meet a challenge to fight from the Scottish Giant Benandonner. The Causeway is not the only evidence for the hand of giants in the landscape and there are many other striking rock formations including the Giant’s Boot, Organ and Granny. In fact the rocks of the Causeway did at one time extend across to Scotland and the same columnar rock formations can be seen on the coast of the Mull of Kintyre.
The rocks were formed not by the actions of giants but by vast flows of basaltic lava that once covered the entire area. These eruptions occurred 60 million years ago when the European and North American continents separated. The columnar shapes that give the Causeway its characteristic aspect formed as the lava slowly cooled over many thousands of years.