The Giant’s Causeway Northern Ireland – History and Legend


Giants Causeway by Irish Painter Susanna Drury


The Giant’s Causeway first came to the attention of the world in 1693, when Sir Richard Bulkeley, a baronet and Irish politician, wrote a paper about it to the Royal Society. From then, its popularity has grown.

We know that others had visited or encountered the stones before 1693. A year before, the Bishop of Derry visited. And in 1588 a Spanish Armada met tragedy on the rocks. It had been sent to attack England by King Philip of Spain, however the English navy was too strong. The Spanish ships beat a retreat via Ireland, sailing along the north coast. One ship, the Girona, hit rocks with 1,300 men on board. Only five survived. Four hundred years later, in 1967, the Girona’s wreck was found on the sea bed.

One of the first known images of the Giant’s Causeway is by 18th century Irish painter Susanna Drury. She painted watercolor paintings of the rocks in 1739 which were in turn created into what are now famous engravings in 1743.

The first explosion in visitors came about with the launching of the Giant’s Causeway Tramway. It opened in 1883 and ran for 65 years. It was the world’s first hydro-electric tram system, built using ground-breaking technology created by Siemens. The tramway ran until 1949.

Throughout the Northern Irish Troubles, the Giant’s Causeway continued to be popular, often acting as a respite for the violence that was going on elsewhere in the country. During and after this period, however, controversy raged about how best to capitalize on the natural gift bestowed on Northern Ireland. It had a lot to do with politics and money, but it was a very localized argument and never stopped the visitors coming (although previous sub-standard facilities might have lessened the quality of their experience).

giants-causeway northern Ireland Antrim

National Trust and UNESCO

The Giant’s Causeway has been under the management of the National Trust since 1961. It is a UK wide charity that works to protect and preserve historic places and spaces. The National Trust has millions of members and looks after locations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. At the Giant’s Causeway, the National Trust works to protect the local wildlife and general environment, while at the same time hosting the thousands of people who visit the Giant’s Causeway every year.

In 1986 the Giant’s Causeway was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO. UNESCO is a United Nations organisation that, through its World Heritage initiative, seeks first to identify cultural and natural heritage sites around the world considered to be of “outstanding value to humanity” then protect and preserve them. The Giant’s Causeway is one of only 188 natural world heritage sites in the world. It is the only one on the island of Ireland is one of just two in the UK, the other being the Devon Coast.

Next: Giant’s Causeway – Visitor Center


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