Visiting the Giant’s Causeway has long been on my bucket list since my science college courses. This spectacular rock formation was so unique it’s hard to believe it was even real. A great hike for kids (ours were 9 and 6 at the time), Northern Ireland’s wild and untamed Antrim coast is home to dreamy landscapes, ragged cliffs and varied animal and plant life.
From the visitor center, we followed a tarred roadway which descended down a steep slope, until you arrive at ‘The Stookans’ or Windy Gap—as locals refer to it. From here we continued along the tarred roadway until first signs of the hexagonal causeway stones appeared.
Taking time to hopscotch across the tops of the columns, we relished in the raw beauty. The surrounding areas are fantastic for the kids to explore and if you’re lucky enough to catch a clear day, the panoramic view is breath-taking.
The spectacular columns of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland/United Kingdom formed between 50-60 million years ago when a flood of lava oozed from fissures in the earth. The molten rock cooled and contracted, cracking into a series of some 40,000 basalt columns, nearly perfect hexagonal shapes.
The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. The locals believed that between the hexagons, the mythical features carved out in the rocks and the tumbling sea, there’s real magic.
Tourists traveling with tours rarely go beyond the stones, so the crowds tapperd off as we continued the hike at the Giant’s Gate and proceed into Port Noffer (The bay of the giant). Here a different world existed, with marginally more sheltered conditions allowing more diverse maritime meadows & saltmarsh vegetation to establish.
Some of the columns were more than 35 feet tall!
The Giant’s Causeway is made up of 3 promontories – the Little Causeway (1st are the hiker views, the Middle Causeway (better known as the ‘Honeycomb’) – which had spectacularly precise hexagonal features, followed by the The Grand Causeway. In this immediate area, evocative place names and featured abound – Wishing Chair, Wishing Well & Giant’s Gate (all connected with Finn MacCool folklore).
We climbed up the slope to what looked like a giant church organ.
From here the cliff path continued past ‘The Organ’ for another 400 yards to the headland. At the point of the headland, there was a viewing platform which looked into the the Amphitheatre—named obviously because of its shape. Here all manner of lava flows can be observed, as well as the dynamic nature of the cliffs.
After catching our breath, we returned down the trail to the Shepherd’s Path. These 162 steps took us up to the cliff top & onto the North Antrim Cliff Path. At the top of the steps, the trail veered right and then followed the cliffs back to the visitor center.
After a 2.8 hike and roughly 36 flights of stairs we definitely earned a pint of Guinness (ice cream for the kids). This was one of our favorite hikes to date and thrilled to cross off this iconic Irish hike from our bucket list!
Read more from our Ireland Itinerary!