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Walk Where the Giants Roamed

One of the world’s most fascinating geological features seems like something that was misplaced by an extravagant art museum. Located in Northern Ireland is an intricate pattern of hexagons on the ground, each of which juts up a few feet into the air. Despite its appearance, the feature, known as Giant’s Causeway, is not misplaced. It is right at home, where supposed giants carved it centuries ago.

Atlas Obscura describes the causeway as “a geological oddity that looks distinctly man-made.” But its hexagonal columns were formed millions of years ago, long before humans roamed the Earth.

So how did this site originate? The Giant’s Causeway Official Guide shares the legend on the origin story of the geological wonder.

“In Ireland lived a gentle giant called Finn MacCool. At fifty two feet six inches, he was a relatively small giant … But across the sea, in Scotland, there was a rival giant called Benandonner. The two giants hollered across the sea of Moyle, each demanding a trial of strength.”

Apparently, Finn offered to build a causeway of rocks between the two countries so that the giants could join together for the contest. With some help, Finn built a path from Country Antrim to Benandonner’s home at Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island, Scotland.

All this work was so exhausting for Finn, however, that he collapsed. When his wife awoke the following day, she found him sound asleep, and began to worry about him. Soon after she wake, she heard a giant’s footsteps approaching her home and saw the huge figure of Benandonner, who she knew could easily defeat her husband.

To spare her husband’s life, she covered Finn in a nightgown and bonnet. When the Scottish giant came looking for him, she said that the sleeping giant before him was Finn’s child. Seeing Finn’s huge “child,” Benandonner feared how much larger Finn would be, and ran back to his home across the causeway.

The giant destroyed the causeway as he ran across it, which is why the land only stretches out of the eastern tip of Ireland, instead of reaching all the way to Scotland.

Atlas Obscura notes, “What seems remarkable to us … is that there was much argument as to whether the Causeway had been created by men with picks and chisels, by nature, or by the efforts of a giant.”

Today, most people are convinced that the causeway was formed by nature. “The unusual formation was born … 65-23 million years ago … when Northern Ireland was subject to powerful volcanic activity. During this period, molten basalt came into contact with chalk beds, forming a lava plateau,” according to the official guide.

Eventually, the lava cooled and the plateau cracked, which formed about 40,000 columns shaped like hexagons, all of which stretch out to different heights. The tallest column is nearly 36 feet high.   

No matter what the origin of Giant’s Causeway, it is still a beautiful feature of this Earth that offers many interesting things for the people who wish to visit it. Visitors can enjoy walking along the many paths around the geological feature, admire Dunseverick Castle, or spot the abundance of wildlife in the area.

Featured Image by Giuseppe Milo on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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