Few spots in Ireland invoke the imagery of Irish mythology more than the Giant's Causeway along Antrim's northern coast. Science may explain the polygonal stones as being caused by volcanic activity, but in your mind's eye you can't help but see the giant, Finn McCool, setting his stone pathway across the waters between Ireland and Scotland to fight the Scots giant.
The basalt columns of stone have been photographed and written about thousands of times and are one of the top tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. So much so that an entire driving route is named for it: the Causeway Coastal Route. If visiting the Giant's Causeway is on your itinerary you've likely read quite a bit already! So, instead of re-hashing the basics I'm going to share a few tips for your visit.
Visiting the Giant's Causeway: A Few Things You Maybe Didn't Know
You Can Skip the Visitors Centre
There is actually no charge to visit the Giant's Causeway. It's not a problem to bypass the visitors centre and stroll right down the hill to the Grand Causeway. Entry costs visitors pay are inclusive for parking, entry to the exhibition, cafe & shop, an audio guide and, if desired, a guided walk.
So why would you pay to visit if the site itself is free? First and foremost, the visitors centre is a terrific resource for learning about the Giant's Causeway. With areas of exploration for kids and plenty of history and information for adults, a stop in here offers an amazing overview and fills in the gaps of your Causeway knowledge. Also… parking. It's just such a convenience to park nearby. And then there is the audio guide, a wonderfully handy bit to have along as you trek down the hill to the stones beyond.
The Causeway is a Bit Farther Than You May Think
Departing from the rear of the visitors centre you may be surprised to find that the towering columns are more than a stone's throw away. In fact, they are a bit more than a mile away. Downhill. Which is easy enough. Until you turn to come uphill. Luckily there is a dedicated Ulster Bus route from the top of the hill to the bottom, at the cost of £1 each way.
My advice- walk down and enjoy the sight of the Grand Causeway as it comes into view. And take the bus back up!
This Isn't a ‘Take a Photo and Go' Site
As I've already mentioned, it will take you a bit of time to get down to the stones you've come to see. So why would you snap a few photos and leave? During our trip we watched many people do just that… they would ride down on the bus, get off, take photos for 10-15 minutes, queue for the next bus, and go. Frankly, it was bizarre.
Instead, plan a few hours. Explore the Grand Causeway, then move beyond. Four walking trails within the site provide hikes for all ages and abilities. Take your time, enjoy the views, and take home photos that few visitors can duplicate.
There are Always People Here
You can arrive as the sun is rising or setting, or in the dead of winter. Truly, no matter when you plan your visit there will be others here. If you have your heart set on a specific photo, find your angle, get your camera settings in place, and wait for your shot. It will come sooner or later- just be ready when it does.
Finn McCool May Have Built the Causeway….
but it was his wife who defeated the Scottish giant. You see, Finn didn't know how large the Scots giant really was. And when he found out, Finn knew he would be defeated. Luckily his wife Oonagh had a quick mind and outwitted the large, but somewhat dim, Benandonner. Read the legend of Finn McCool.
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If you've visited the Giant's Causeway what tips would you offer?