The Giant’s Causeway Northern Ireland – History and Legend



How it was formed

The Giant’s Causeway is made up of 40,000 basalt columns in a formation jutting out of a small piece of coastline on the north coast of Ireland in County Antrim. It is thought they were formed around 60 million years ago. Today County Antrim is made up of some rugged countryside but it is mostly serene farmland. Fifty to sixty million years ago it was a hotbed of volcanic activity. This volcanic activity meant the area was part of the Thulean Province, a huge basalt lava plain. At the Giant’s Causeway, this molten basalt lava started to cool rapidly. This caused the basalt to contract and fracture, much the same way mud does when it dries. The cooling process left behind pillar-like objects which remain largely intact to this day.


That is the proper and widely accepted scientific explanation of how the Giant’s Causeway was formed. However, this is Ireland (more specifically it is Northern Ireland) so the story does not end there. First, there is the Irish folklore, the story of how the rock formations were formed handed down through the generations. Secondly, there is the religious explanation, which is important to note as there is a very significant proportion of the population living in the area around the Giant’s Causeway who dismiss the scientific explanation.

For a full understanding it is important to understand these stories and viewpoints, which are outlined below.

Next: Giant’s Causeway – Irish Legend


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