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Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast
Protected Area
Country United Kingdom
Region Northern Ireland
District County Antrim
Municipality Moyle
Coordinates 55°14′27″N 6°30′42″W / 55.24083°N 6.51167°W / 55.24083; -6.51167
Area 0.7 km2 (0 sq mi)
Geology Basalt
Period Paleogene
Owner National Trust
For public Publicly accessible
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Name Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast
Year 1986 (#10)
Number 369
Region Europe and North America
Criteria VII, VIII
IUCN category III - Natural Monument
Wikimedia Commons: Giant's Causeway
Website: National Trust web site
Giant's Causeway*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Type Natural
Criteria vii, viii
Reference 369
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1986  (10th session Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Giant's Causeway (Irish: Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFómharach)[1] is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim, on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about two miles (3 km) north of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (36 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.

The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.[2]

Contents

History

Some 50 to 60 million years ago,[3] during the Paleogene period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly, contraction occurred. While contraction in the vertical direction reduced the flow thickness (without fracturing), horizontal contraction could only be accommodated by cracking throughout the flow. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools[4]. The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene period.[5]

Legend

Engraving of Susanna Drury's A View of the Giant's Causeway: East Prospect

Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner's great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.[citation needed]

Another variation is that Oonagh painted a rock shaped like a steak and gave it to Benandonner, whilst giving the baby (Fionn) a normal steak. When Benandonner saw that the baby was able to eat it so easily, he ran away, tearing up the causeway.[citation needed]

Another version of the legend was that Fionn had spent many days and nights trying to create a bridge to Scotland because he was challenged by another giant. A fellow boatsman told him that the opponent was much larger than he. Fionn told his wife and she came up with an ingenious plan to dress Fionn like a baby. They spent many nights creating a costume and bed. When the opponant came to Fionn's house; Fionn's wife told him that Fionn was out woodcutting and the opponent would have to wait for him to return. Then Fionn's wife showed him her baby and when the opponant saw him he was terrified at the thought of how huge Fionn would be. He ran back to Scotland and threw random stones from the causeway into the waters bellow.

The "causeway" legend corresponds with geological history in as much as there are similar basalt formations (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at the site of Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa in Scotland.[6]

Tourism

The discovery of the Giant's Causeway was announced to the wider world in 1693 by the presentation of a paper to the Royal Society from Sir Richard Bulkeley, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, although the discoverer had, in fact, been the Bishop of Derry who had visited the site a year earlier. The site received international attention when Dublin artist Susanna Drury made watercolour paintings of it in 1739; they won Drury the first award presented by the Royal Dublin Society in 1740 and were engraved in 1743.[7] In 1765 an entry on the Causeway appeared in volume 12 of the French Encyclopédie, which was informed by the engravings of Drury's work; the engraving of the "East Prospect" itself appeared in a 1768 volume of plates published for the Encyclopédie.[8] In the caption to the plates French geologist Nicolas Desmarest suggested, for the first time in print, that such structures were volcanic in origin.

Red basaltic prisms

The site first became popular with tourists during the nineteenth century, particularly after the opening of the Giant's Causeway Tramway, and only after the National Trust took over its care in the 1960s were some of the vestiges of commercialism removed. Visitors can walk over the basalt columns which are at the edge of the sea, a half mile walk from the entrance to the site.

On the more cynical side, man of letters Samuel Johnson said, when asked about about the Causeway, "Worth seeing, yes; but not worth going to see."

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Visitors' centre

The Causeway has been without a permanent visitors' centre since 2000, when the last building burned down.[9] Public money was set aside to construct a new centre and, following an architectural competition, a proposal was accepted to build a new centre which was to be set into the ground to reduce impact to the landscape. A privately-financed proposal was given preliminary approval in 2007 by the Environment Minister and DUP member Arlene Foster.[10] However, the public money that had been allocated was frozen as a row developed about the relationship between the private developer Seymour Sweeney and the DUP.[11] It was also debated whether a private interest should be permitted to benefit from the site - given its cultural and economic importance and as it is largely owned by the National Trust. Coleraine Borough Council voted against the private plans and in favour of a public development project,[12] and Moyle District Council similarly signalled its displeasure and gave the land on which the previous visitors' centre stood to the National Trust. This gave the Trust control of both the Causeway and surrounding land. Ultimately Mr. Sweeney dropped a legal challenge to the publicly funded plan, and the National Trust (supported by National Lottery funds) are expected to complete the new centre by 2011.[13]

Notable features

Some of the structures in the area, having been subject to several million years of weathering, resemble objects, such as the Organ and Giant's Boot structures. Other features include many reddish, weathered low columns known as Giants Eyes, created by the displacement of basalt boulders; the Shepherd's Steps; the Honeycomb; the Giant's Harp; the Chimney Stacks; the Giant's Gate and the Camel's Hump.

Flora and fauna

The area is a haven for sea birds such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank guillemot and razorbill, while the weathered rock formations host a number of rare and unusual plants including sea spleenwort, hare's foot trefoil, vernal squill, sea fescue and frog orchid.

Similar structures

Although the basaltic columns of the Giant's Causeway are impressive, they are not unique. Basalt columns are a common volcanic feature, and they occur on many scales (because faster cooling produces smaller columns). Similar sites include: the Prismas Basálticos in Hidalgo, Mexico, Fingal's Cave and the 'Kilt Rock' on Skye in Scotland, east coast of Suðuroy, the Faroes, Svartifoss in Iceland, Jusangjeolli in South Korea, the Garni gorge in Armenia, the Cyclopean Isles near Sicily, Devils Postpile National Monument in California, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the Organ Pipes National Park just outside of Melbourne, Australia, the "Organ Pipes" formation on Mount Cargill in New Zealand, the "Rocha dos Bordões" formation in Flores, the Azores, near Twyfelfontein in Namibia, Gành Đá Đĩa in Vietnam,[14] Cape Stolbchatiy in Russia, Coloanele de bazalt in Racoş, Romania, Fingal Head in New South Wales, Australia, and on St. Mary's Islands on the west coast of India and in Riyom, Nigeria.

Notes

  1. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  2. ^ Northern Ireland Tourist Board (2008-08-18). "Giant's Causeway remains Northern Ireland's Top Attraction". Press release. http://www.nitb.com/DocumentPage.aspx?path=b019d219-34a1-48eb-8e21-900525c4e543,b863bc15-f1a4-4c29-bb52-0a82ba59257c,4870b6cb-ec7f-4a61-8cae-027c591c188b,aaab5041-6a69-414e-8406-5eeedd548382,1a3ca69c-3386-46b4-93eb-5239112cc00e,6645f4a7-a521-4858-817f-a6af1a709454. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  3. ^ "Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/369. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  4. ^ "University of Toronto (2008, December 25). Mystery Of Hexagonal Column Formations". http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081216104325.htm. 
  5. ^ Geoffroy, Laurent; Bergerat, Françoise; Angelier, Jacques (September 1996). "Brittle tectonism in relation to the Palaeogene evolution of the Thulean/NE Atlantic domain: a study in Ulster". Geological Journal 31 (3): 259–269. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1034(199609)31:3<259::AID-GJ711>3.0.CO;2-8. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/61005289/ABSTRACT. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  6. ^ Formation of basalt columns / pseudocrystals
  7. ^ Arnold, Irish Art, p. 62.
  8. ^ "Susanna Drury, the Causeway, and the Encyclopédie, 1768". Lindahall.org. Retrieved March 14, 2007.
  9. ^ BBC News - Investigation into Causeway blaze - 30 April, 2000
  10. ^ BBC News - Developer set to get Causeway nod - 10 September 2007
  11. ^ BBC News - Developer's DUP link 'no bearing' - 11 September 2007
  12. ^ BBC News - Causeway must be public ; council - 12 September 2007
  13. ^ BBC News - Developer ends Causeway challenge - May 2009
  14. ^ Gành Đá Đĩa in Vietnam

References and further reading

  • Arnold, Bruce (2002). Irish Art: A Concise History. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20148-X
  • Jagla, E. A.; Rojo, A. G. (2002). "Sequential fragmentation: the origin of columnar quasihexagonal patterns". Physical Review E 65 (2): 026203. doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.65.026203. 
  • Philip S. Watson (2000). The Giant's Causeway. O'Brien: Printing Press. ISBN 0-86278-675-4. 
  • Deane, C. Douglas. 1983. The Ulster Countryside. Century Books. ISBN 0903152177.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway is a spectacular rock formation on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. The site consists of some 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea. The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Understand

Myth

Popular mythology attributes the creation of the Causeway to an Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. To prove his superior strength and status, Fionn decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. As there was no boat large enough to carry huge Finn across the sea to confront Bennandonner, he built his own pathway of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. He then was able to walk across the sea without getting his feet wet.

When he crossed the sea, however, he saw just how large Benandonner was. He ran back to Ireland before Bennandonner saw him, but the causeway was built and Bennandonner came to fight. Fionn crawled into a crib and when Bennandonner came to the door to fight him, his wife told him not to wake the baby. Seeing just how large Fionn's "baby" was, Bennandonner grew afraid and ran back to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went to prevent Fionn following him.

Get in

By bus

There is bus service from Portrush and Coleraine train stations, about £3 each way. Check Translink's website for timetables.

From Belfast there are day trips to the causeway which also include stops at Bushmills and the Glens of Antrim [1]

By Car

From Belfast, follow the signs for the "Giant's Causeway Coastal Route" for a beautiful scenic route to the Causeway. It takes a longer (around 2 hours depending on traffic) but it is worth it for the views.

There is also the more direct route along the A26 from Belfast or the A2/A37 from Derry/ Londonderry if time is a factor.

Get around

Public transportation is scarce over the weekends, especially on Sundays after late September. Getting into Belfast, or even to the local towns and villages can be challenging.

Hiring a car, or making an advance note of a minicab company's phone number is recommended step to take.

Travellers should be prepared to walk long distances if they miss the daily bus that runs once in each direction on Sundays along the coast (towards Ballintoy/Ballycastle, bus route 172). While it might be worth considering this walk as the scenery alongside the road is neat, it is somewhat dangerous as along the villages and farms, public lighting is non-existent and often dogs are on the loose that are not welcoming towards tourists.

See

The focal point of the area is, of course, the Giant's Causeway itself. There is no charge for visiting the causeway, although you will find that parking costs a little more than you would expect (circa £6).

Do

Once parked up or off the bus at the visitors centre, you will find there is actually a further road that gets you down to the Causeway. There is a bus service runs constantly back and forth between the visitors centre and the rocks themselves, but walking there will only take around 20 minutes and will give you chance to take in some more of the coastal scenary.

Feel free to pose for photos on the rock columns, but be aware that waves will be splashing up onto the rocks, meaning that you can be soaked by the sudden swells and waves, or you can lose your footing on the slippery rocks.

Buy

There is a gift shop, selling the typical tourist wear of causeway and Ireland themed stationary, kitchenware, etc, and there is also an Information centre as well.

Eat

Check out Thyme&Co in Ballycastle just up the Road. Great for Frys and Lunches.

Sleep

There is the Bushmill's Inn (http://www.bushmillsinn.com/) which is very nice and strongly Irish themed. It is about 10 minutes drive from the causeway. Given Northern Irelands relatively small size, you may feel that you want to stay nearer to or in a city such as Belfast or Derry/Londonderry and then drive to the Causeway from there. This would give you a much wider choice of accommodation.

Get out

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is near by. Fun and (despite what your instincts may tell you) perfectly safe. It costs between £4 and $6, with family tickets available. A chance to walk around some more coastal countryside and walk to the Island across the rope bridge.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, a promontory of columnar basalt, situated on the north coast of county Antrim, Ireland. It is divided by whin-dykes into the Little Causeway, the Middle Causeway or "Honeycomb," as it is locally termed, and the Larger or Grand Causeway. The pillars composing it are close-fitting and for the most part somewhat irregular hexagons, made up of articulated portions varying from a few inches to some feet in depth, and concave or convex at the upper and lower surfaces. In diameter the pillars vary from 15 to 20 in., and in height some are as much as 20 ft. The Great Causeway is chiefly from 20 to 30, and for a few yards in some places nearly 40 ft. in breadth, exclusive of outlying broken pieces of rock. It is highest at its narrowest part. At about half a dozen yards from the cliff, widening and becoming lower, it extends outwards into a platform, which has a slight seaward inclination, but is easy to walk upon, and for nearly ioo yds. is always above water. At the distance of about 150 yds. from the cliff it turns a little to the eastward for 20 or 30 yds., and then sinks into the sea. The neighbouring cliffs exhibit in many places columns similar to those of the Giant's Causeway, a considerable exposure of them being visible at a distance of Soo to 600 yds. in the bay to the east. A group of these columns, from their arrangement, have been fancifully named the "Giant's Organ." The most remarkable of the cliffs is the Pleaskin, the upper pillars of which have the appearance of a colonnade, and are 60 ft. in height; beneath these is a mass of coarse black amygdaloid, of the same thickness, underlain by a second range of basaltic pillars, from 40 to 50 ft. in height. The view eastward over Bengore and towards Fair Head is magnificent. Near the Giant's Causeway are the ruins of the castles of Dunseverick and Dunluce, situated high above the sea on isolated crags, and the swinging bridge of Carrick-a-Rede, spanning a chasm 80 ft. deep, and connecting a rock, which is used as a salmon-fishing station, with the mainland. In 1883 an electric railway, the first in the United Kingdom, was opened for traffic, connecting the Causeway with Portrush and Bushmills. After a protracted lawsuit (1897-1898) the Causeway, and certain land in the vicinity, were declared to be private property, and a charge is made for admission.


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Simple English

Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Type Natural
Criteria vii, viii
Reference 369
Region List of World Heritage Sites in Europe
Inscription History
Inscription 1986  (10th session Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Giant's Causeway [1] is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.[2]

The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (36 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.

The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.[3]

Geological significance

The Giant's Causeway and Fingal's Cave are part of the same volcanic eruption. They were separated by the plate tectonics movements which happened when the supercontinent Pangaea broke up.

Some 50 to 60 million years ago,[4] during the Paleogene period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly, contraction occurred. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools.[5] The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene period.[6] Parts of this plateau can be found in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Norway, as well as at Fingal's cave.

References


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