The Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

Visiting the Giant’s Causeway: Things to Know

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The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the north coast of Northern Ireland near Bushmills. It’s pretty incredible- a collection of around 40,000 Basalt rocks, mostly in hexagonal shapes (although some are tall columns), that act like stepping stones protruding from the ocean.

What is the Myth Behind the Giant’s Causeway?

Giant's Causeway Ireland

Geologists say the Giant’s Causeway was created by a volcanic eruption around 50-60 million years ago, but I prefer the Irish tale.

There are numerous versions of the Giant’s Causeway legend but this is what I was told by our guide:

The Giant’s Causeway was created by an Irish giant called Finn McCool so that he could cross over to Scotland and fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. He tore rocks from the coastline and threw them into the sea. Unfortunately he fell asleep before he could get to Scotland and the giant crossed over looking for him.

Finn ran to his wife Oonagh, who disguised him as their baby son and made him curl up in a huge cradle. When the giant Benandonner saw this huge ‘infant’ he became frightened thinking that Finn must be gigantic. He fled to Scotland, destroying the Causeway on the way back so that Finn couldn’t follow him.

How was the Giant’s Causeway Actually Formed?

Giant's Causeway hexagonal rocks

Around 50 to 60 million years ago Antrim experienced intense volcanic activity and when the lava came into contact with the sea, it cooled. The molten rock (basalt) contracted and fractured into columns, and the pressure between these columns caused them to be sculpted into polygonal shapes.

The columns vary from 15 to 20 inches in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 meters) in height. The resulting size of each column largely depended on the speed at which the lava cooled. Scientists believe the Giant’s Causeway formed at temperatures between 1,544 and 1,634 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photos never really do it justice until you’re there stood on those hexagonal rocks looking out on the ocean. The rocks act like stepping stones so you can hop about from one to the other. I sat on one of the rocks for a while and watched in amusement as people who were standing too close to the ocean got splashed by the waves.

Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway

Giants Causeway Ireland

Visitor Centre Opening Info & Prices

Much of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is owned and managed by the National Trust. You can walk to the Giant’s Causeway for free but if you want to park in the on-site car park you’ll need to pay to go into the Visitor Center.

Tickets for the Visitor Center cost £13 per adult, £6.50 per child, £32.50 for a family and £19.50 for a one adult family. The price includes on-site parking, guided tours, use of hand-held audio guides, access to the Visitor Centre’s exhibition, the shop, cafe and all facilities.

At the Giant’s Causeway gift shop you can buy unique gifts and local crafts to take home for your friends and family. 90% of the crafts on sale in the shop are locally made in Northern Ireland. You can also purchase foods from the National Trust food collection, including Irish biscuits, honey, fudge, jams, marmalades and chutney spreads.

If you don’t want to go into the Visitor Center then you can park your vehicle at the Causeway Coast Way Car Park, which is located at 60 Causeway Road and is open 24 hours per day. The fee is £5 and the car park uses a PayByPhone system. From here you can walk to the Giant’s Causeway.

Giant’s Causeway Trails

Giant's Causeway Coastal Route

The three most popular trails at the Giant’s Causeway are The Blue Trail, The Red Trail and The Runkerry Trail.

The Blue Trail

This short route is only 0.8 miles long and leads directly to the stones. It’s the most popular of the Giant’s Causeway trails. From the car park, you’ll follow a kerb stone footpath eastward, with the sheer dramatic cliff face on your left and the North Atlantic Ocean on your right.

Eventually you’ll turn a sharp corner called Windy Gap and from here the causeway stones will be visible in the distance. Eventually the tarmac path becomes a gravel surface and your journey ends at Giant’s Boot.

The Red Trail

The Red Trail is a moderate clifftop walk that takes 30 mins – 1 hour 30 mins to complete. The path takes you up a steep hill leading to Weir Snout, bringing you on top, but inland from, the Aird headland. Don’t walk out on to the headland because it can be extremely dangerous, especially in high winds.

You’ll eventually reach the top of the Shepherd’s Steps and if you continue onwards from this point the trail becomes the Yellow Trail, which leads to the Hamilton’s seat. To continue on the Red Trail, climb down the steps from the clifftop and follow the trail towards the Organ. Or alternatively, turn left and head towards the Grand Causeway, which links to the Blue Trail.

The Runkerry Trail (Green Trail)

This clifftop walk towards Runkerry offers excellent views of the stones and on a clear day you can see over to Scotland and the Inishowen Peninsula in Ireland too. On the way you can see birds such as skylark, stonechat, linnet and chough.

Start at The Causeway Hotel where there’s a path on the left side of the building that leads towards the cliff path. Follow the path towards Runkerry Head and you’ll come to the accessible picnic area, where you can stop and have a picnic.

After the picnic area you’ll come to a t-junction. Turn left to continue on to Runkerry Head or turn right to take the alternate clifftop path back towards the Visitor Centre and hotel.

Best Time to Visit the Giant’s Causeway

The best time to visit The Giant’s Causeway is near sunrise or sunset, although the busiest time for visitors is usually around noon. It can get very busy, so try to avoid the middle of the day if you can. Dawn and dusk are the best times for taking photos, if you’re into photography.

What to Wear on Your Visit to the Giant’s Causeway

Since the landscape is very exposed, it can get pretty wet and chilly. If you visit on a rainy day, remember to bring a warm, waterproof jacket. Since you’ll be walking over rocks, it’s best to wear shoes that have some grip so you don’t slip and fall.

Giant’s Causeway Opening Hours

Opening hours:

  • Coastline – dawn to dusk
  • Causeway Coast Way Car Park – 10am to 5pm
  • Visitor Centre – 10am to 5pm

Day Trips to Giant’s Causeway

Of course, you don’t have to rent a car to get to the Giant’s Causeway. There are lots of tours that will take you there! Here are some of the best day tours to Giant’s Causeway. You can book them online with Paddywagon or GetYourGuide – two companies I’ve used and recommend.

FAQs About Giant’s Causeway

Giants Causeway rocks
Can you visit the Giant’s Causeway for free?

You can walk to the Giant’s Causeway for free but if you want to park in the on-site car park you’ll need to buy tickets to the Visitor Experience, which includes a guided tour, use of audio guides and access to the shop, cafe and exhibition.

Is it worth visiting the Giant’s Causeway?

Yes, it’s definitely worth visiting. You can see lots of photos of The Giant’s Causeway online but photos don’t really do it justice. It’s incredible to walk over rocks that formed millions of years ago! The landscape is dramatic and definitely memorable.

Can you visit Giants Causeway anytime?

The coastline is open from dawn to dusk. The Visitor Centre is typically open 10am to 5pm.

How much time do you need at Giants Causeway?

I’d give yourself about an hour to experience the Giant’s Causeway.

Can I take my dog to Giants Causeway?

Yes, the Visitor Centre is now fully dog friendly. Previously only assistance dogs were allowed but now all dogs are welcome. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times and dog owners must clean up any dog poop and dispose of waste responsibly.

Where is Giant’s Causeway?

The Giant’s Causeway is located in Antrim in Northern Ireland. It’s a 5-minute drive from the Old Bushmills Distillery and a 15-minute drive from Carrick-a-rede.

If you want to put it in your GPS or Google Maps, the addresss is 44 Causeway Road, Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8SU

If you’d rather skip the Visitor Centre you can park in the Causeway Coast Way Car Park for £5 and walk to the Causeway Coast Way. Payment is via a  PayByPhone system with location code 805951. The car park is open 24 hours per day. 

Things to do Near Giant’s Causeway

Carrick a rede rope bridge

 Old Bushmills Distillery – At some point you’ve probably seen Bushmills whiskey on the shelves of bars. It’s a famous Irish whiskey and you can visit the distillery in Antrim, not far from the Giant’s Causeway. The Bushmills Distillery has been around for over 400 years and uses water that comes from Saint Columb’s Rill – a tributary of the River Bush. On your visit you can discover how they triple-distill their whiskies using copper pot stills and of course sample some yourself.

Dunluce Castle – This ruined medieval castle is perched on the edge of a basalt outcropping and was once the the home of Clan MacDonnell and the seat of the Earl of Antrim. After the impoverishment of the MacDonnells following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, the castle fell into disrepair. Although ruined, it’s an impressive sight and makes for some great photos.

Carrick-a-rede – The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge can be found near Ballintoy in Country Antrim, linking the mainland with the tiny island of Carrickarede. It was first erected by salmon fishermen more than 250 years ago, although the current version of the bridge was made by Heyn Construction in Belfast and raised in 2008. Today it’s a popular tourist attraction and you can walk across it for free. Some visitors have been so frightened to walk back over the bridge that they’ve had to be taken off the island by boat!

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