UNESCO World Heritage Challenge: Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway coast, Northern Ireland, were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 due to its outstanding geological and natural features. The Causeway and surrounding bays and headlands are all volcanic. Millions of years of erosion and weathering have shaped this landscape. More about the formation of the Causeway is available here. I visited this site a couple of times, but the images shown here are from my 2007 trip.

Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway itself is a fascinating geological feature, made of basalt, solidified lava, that cooled and cracked a bit like when mud on a pond dries up. Unlike mud, which cracks only on the surface, the cracking in the lava went much deeper creating columns. The Causeway lava cooled and shrank, splitting apart to create a pavement like surface and tall columns.

Giant's Causeway

There is a legend attributed to the causeway: the legends tells of Finn MacCool wanting to do battle with a rival giant in Scotland, known as Benandonner. The two giants had never met, so Finn built enormous stepping stones across the sea so that the Scottish giant could cross to Ireland to face the challenge. The story takes a humorous twist when Finn, seeing the great bulk of Benandonner approaching, flees home in fear and asks his wife Oonah, to hide him. Oonagh is said to have disguised Finn as a baby, and put him in a huge cradle. When Benandonner saw the size of the ‘infant’, he assumed the father must be gigantic indeed, and fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed. This is the reason, so the tale concludes, that the Giant’s Causeway exists here in north Antrim, with similar columns at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish Island of Staff to the north – the two surviving ends of the Causeway built by Finn MacCool.

Legends aside, is a very picturesque coastline with lots of geological features to uncover…

Coastal Arch on the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

Soil creep on the Causeway Coast

  • More about the legends of Finn MacCool can be found on this site (complete with cartoon illustrations) can be found here.
  • You can view more pictures from the Northern Ireland Causeway Coast on Flickr here.
  • You see the official Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast on the UNESCO website here.
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