The Causeway was formed 50 to 60 million years ago when Co. Antrim was subjected to intense volcanic activity. The lava rose through the chalk beds and cooled to form the hexagonal columns we see today. The height of the columns mainly depended on how fast the lava cooled. Most of the Basalt columns are hexagonal but some are known to have four, five, seven or even eight sides.
The Causeway was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1986 and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by The Department of Development for Northern Ireland.
The Legend Of Finn McCool
Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway as a bridge to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland, so his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him to disguise him as a baby. When Benandonner came over to look for Fionn, he saw the size of the infant and fled in terror at the though of the size of the infants father. Benandonner tore down the causeway on his way back to prevent fionn from capturing him.
The Giant’s Causeway received international attention when artist Susana Drury won a prize presented by the Royal Dublin Society in 1740 for her watercolour paintings she did the year before.
The Causeway didnt become popular with tourists untill the Giant’s Causeway Tramway opened in The Nineteenth Century. The site was taken over by the National Trust in the 1960’s when the visitors were allowed to walk on the basalt columns for the first time.
One of the ships from The Spanish Armada, The Girona, now settles just beside the Giants Causeway after running aground there in 1588. The ship got into difficulties and tried to make its way back to Spain by going around the North Coast of Scotland to escape the treacherous weather conditions on the coast of Northern Ireland. The ship struck a rock and sunk. Nobody knows exctly how many survived but stories say the survivors remarried local women in the area.