I went way up the northeast coast of Ireland the other day, somewhere at the far tip of the island, a place called… The Giant’s Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s awesome little places,
and a hidden gem just like Northern Ireland itself.
This geological wonder sits on a beach in County Antrim and basically consists of over 40,000 hexagonal interlocking pillars. The top of these pillars form stepping stones that lead from the base of a mountain and slowly disappear under the sea.
The scientific explanation for this phenomenon is pretty straight forward. It basically states that millions of years ago the area was going through intense volcanic activity and molten lava covered the area, now for some reason this lava plateau cooled rapidly, causing the newly formed rock to crystalize and fracture in this shape… Et voila…! Causeway created. However, just like everything else in these parts (lucky for us) there’s always another more mythical, folkloric version of things.
Legend has it that these pillars are the remains of a causeway (pathway or bridge) built by an Irish giant called Finn MacCool who was the ruler of Ireland. And just like all powerful men, he eventually became power hungry and needed a bigger kingdom to rule. So he set his eyes on Scotland and decided to build this causeway in order to proceed with his invasion plans. What Finn didn’t know was that Scotland had its own giant, a colossus man by the name of Benandonner which incidentally was bigger in size than Finn, some say even twice the size. Having finally reached Scotland and seeing the actual size of its giant, Finn runs back to Ireland and based on his wife’s advice, disguises himself as a baby and tucks himself in a cradle. When Benandonner reaches Finn’s house and sees the size of the ‘baby’, he naturally reckons that the father must be a giant among giants. So he flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn could not follow.
Which version is true is entirely up to you of course. Me… I think I’ll stick to the legend. Oh and incidentally, across the sea, there are identical less famous basalt columns somewhere on the shores of Scotland… Food for thought! 🙂