Giant's Causeway is a spectacular rock formation on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. The site consists of some 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea. The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Causeway was created over 60 million years ago following a volcanic eruption. The formation of the Giant's Causeway was due to intense volcanic activity.
The Giant's Causeway has a "twin" at Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides off Scotland (near the island of Mull), approximately 150km to the north east across the Atlantic. The close proximity of the two sites is what gave rise to the Myth of Finn MacCool - described below.
Popular mythology attributes the creation of the Causeway to an Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn MacCool). To prove his superior strength and status, Fionn decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. As there was no boat large enough to carry huge Finn across the sea to confront Bennandonner, he built his own pathway of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. He then was able to walk across the sea without getting his feet wet.
When he crossed the sea, however, he saw just how large Benandonner was. He ran back to Ireland before Bennandonner saw him, but the causeway was built and Bennandonner came to fight. Fionn crawled into a crib and when Bennandonner came to the door to fight him, his wife told him not to wake the baby. Seeing just how large Fionn's "baby" was, Bennandonner grew afraid and ran back to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went to prevent Fionn following him.
Entry to the Giants Causeway is free, however there are lots of extras that will cost you. Firstly there is a Visitor Center which costs £9. This is a museum about the geology of how it was built. You can visit the causeway without visiting the museum.
Parking in the official car park is only available to people who visit the Visitor Center. To avoid this, either take the free park and ride from Bushmills, or park in the Causeway Railway Car park (£6), on the left as you approach the Visitor Center.
Getting from the Visitor Center to the Giants Causeway is about 1km, and there is a bus that can drop you down and back £1 each way. This is an easy walk for most people.
Causeway coast rambler timetable link can be found here. Fare is £6.00 this is a hop on hop off service
From Belfast, follow the signs for the "Giant's Causeway Coastal Route" for a beautiful scenic route to the Causeway. It takes longer (around 2 hours depending on traffic) but it is worth it for the views.
There is also the more direct route along the A26 from Belfast or the A2/A37 from Derry/ Londonderry if time is a factor.
By sightseeing tour from Dublin
Several Dublin based tour operators offer daily tours from Dublin city to the Giant's Causeway, often including other areas of interest along the way such as Belfast City, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Antrim Coast. Typically tours depart around 07:00/07:30 in the morning and return at approximately 20:00. Tickets generally cost €60-69. For many travellers such tours can provide the independence they want with the structure and local insight that makes for a relaxing tour.
Public transportation is scarce over the weekends, especially on Sundays after late September. Getting into Belfast, or even to the local towns and villages can be challenging.
Hiring a car, or making an advance note of a minicab company's phone number is recommended step to take.
Travellers should be prepared to walk long distances if they miss the daily bus that runs once in each direction on Sundays along the coast (towards Ballintoy/Ballycastle, bus route 172). While it might be worth considering this walk as the scenery alongside the road is neat, it is somewhat dangerous as along the villages and farms, public lighting is non-existent and often dogs are on the loose that are not welcoming towards tourists.
The focal point of the area is, of course, the Giant's Causeway itself. There is no charge for visiting the causeway, although you will find that parking is included in the entry to the visitor center. That being said, this is a free site (eg. no entry fee), so a car with four people works out quite reasonable. Cheaper still, check out the near-by Causeway railway car park (£6) or park on the verge of the main road (free!)
Once parked up or off the bus at the visitors centre, you will find there is actually a further road that gets you down to the Causeway. There is a bus service running constantly back and forth between the visitors centre and the rocks themselves, but walking there will only take around 20 minutes and will give you a chance to take in some more of the coastal scenary.
Feel free to pose for photos on the rock columns, but be aware that waves will be splashing up onto the rocks, meaning that you can be soaked by the sudden swells and waves, or you can lose your footing on the slippery rocks.
There is a gift shop, selling the typical tourist tat of causeway and themed stationery, kitchenware, etc, and there is also an Information centre and Bureau de Change to change currency. Please be aware that The Giants Causeway Visitor centre Does NOT accept euros only pounds sterling; if you need pounds change your foreign currency into pounds at the exchange bureau
Check out Thyme&Co in Ballycastle just up the Road. Great for Frys and Lunches.
There is the Bushmill's Inn which is very nice and strongly Irish themed. It's about 10 minutes drive from the causeway. Given Northern Ireland's relatively small size, you may feel that you want to stay nearer to or in a city such as Belfast or Derry/Londonderry and then drive to the Causeway from there. This would give you a much wider choice of accommodation.
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is near by. Fun and (despite what your instincts may tell you) perfectly safe. It costs between £4 and £6, with family tickets available. A chance to walk around some more coastal countryside and walk to the Island across the rope bridge.