Giant's Causeway has long been on my bucket list of places to see in my life. This trip to Giant's Causeway finally happened on our recent trip to Northern Ireland. If you planning your trip, let me share everything we learned about making this not only possible but also enjoyable.
If you are looking for other recommendations on visiting sites in Northern Ireland and Ireland, let me share a few! First up was our 10-day trip planner to Northern Ireland Ireland. Another post is about the lovely Slea Head drive. If you are spending a short amount of time in Dublin, I have a post for that as well. Giant's Causeway was a favorite place we visited on our trip. As we 4 day trips from Galway we took.
History Of The Giant's Causeway
This area has a long and colorful history. It is one that I think it fascinating. It is full of science and myths. You decide which you want to believe.
The causeway was formed about 50-60 million years ago as a result of flows of lava making their way to the coastline, cooling when they hit the sea. The layers of basalt formed columns. Then the pressure between the columns formed them into polygonal shapes that vary in size.
Legend is a little different. The story is told of the Irish giant, Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill) built the causeway to fight with the Scottish giant, Benandonner. When he saw the size of Benandonner, Finn formulated a plan where he would appear as a baby with his wife acting as his mother. When the Scottish giant saw the size of the Irish "baby" he quickly turned for fear of what size the adult Irish giant would be.
What do you think? Science or folklore? Or maybe you want to believe in both.
It was first documented in 1693 and extensively studied since then. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.
The area attracts about 300,000 visitors per year, and this is for good reason. Let me share all the reasons I loved visiting this area.
Where Is The Giant's Causeway Located?
It lies in the Northern Corner of Antrim. It is located in Northern Ireland. Some people mistakenly think it is in Ireland, but it is actually Northern Ireland.
Bushmills is about 2 miles away and the closest town. The nearest airport is in Belfast, but probably the easiest airport to get to (at least for us in the United States is Dublin).
It is an easy day trip from Dublin if that is where you are staying. Whether you are self-driving (as we did) or taking a tour, this site is worth it.
Best Time To Go
Mornings are the best time to visit if you can. I know some are coming on tours, and you are dependent on their schedules, but if possible, arrive early. It is so much more enjoyable if you aren't fighting the crowds when you explore and take photos.
We visited in March for spring break. We made it out to the Causeway at about 7:30 am and had the area to ourselves. It was calm and peaceful. Perfect for exploring without competing with anyone else.
The site itself costs nothing. I know you will see plenty of sites that give costs, but let say, the site costs nothing.
If you want to visit the Visitor's Center, adults are $13, children are $6, and the family rate is $32.50. You can find more info on hours and anything else on their website.
There is parking right at the Visitor's Center. Very close and very convenient. There is no cost for parking, but if you are there during a busy time, it might be hard to find a space.
There is also parking at the Causeway hotel which is right next to the Visitor's center parking.
If it is so busy both those sites are full, they also have parking at Bushmills and a railway that runs to the Causeway for 5 pounds. This would be a good option if you don't want to drive up or can't find parking.
Trails To Giant's Causeway
There are 3 trails that lead down to the Causeway, let me explain the 3.
First is the blue trail. This is an easy trail to navigate and the one we took. I like to hike, but decided on this one as it is the shortest and best for us as we had limited time, only 2 hours, and I wanted to spend the bulk of our time on the causeway. It is a half-mile downhill walk. The road is well paved and easy to navigate.
The second is the red trail. If we had more time, this is the trail we would have done. It is a 2-mile hike one way. It runs along the upper cliffs and eventually joins in with the blue trail. I have heard this one is so good because of the views.
Third, yellow trail. This is a long hike and perfects if you plan on spending the full day hiking and visiting the site. It runs from Runkerry House to Hamilton's Seat.
Tips For Visiting Giant's Causeway
- Visit early or later in the day. Most tours arrive midday and the site will become very crowded and busy.
- We rented a car while we were in Ireland. If you plan to do this, just know that Google Maps will help you navigate to Giant's Causeway with no problem. Check with your carrier and make sure you will have coverage in Ireland. We are with T-Mobile and had decent service the whole trip.
- Giant's Causeway is right on the coast. It can be windy and pretty cold. Make sure and layer as needed. The weather was perfect when we were there, but still cold. Keep in mind when you are packing for the visit.
- If you photographing with your DLSR, make sure and pack a wide-angle lens. The area is so much bigger than you might think. I am a Canon user and brought my 70-200 and my 20mm lens. I used both.
- If you have a drone, bring it. We got some cool videos when we were there!
- I would recommend at least 2 hours at the site. You can certainly spend more, but I don't think you should spend any less than that. There are just so many areas to explore. Give yourself time to take it all in. We were there for 2, but if the weather had been a little warmer, we certainly would have stayed longer.
On a personal note, about 20 years ago, on a flight home from my honeymoon I had a major panic attack. These were not uncommon as I have struggled with anxiety for a really long time, but this episode was particularly bad. So bad in fact that I determined not to get back on a plane.
I am not sure why I decided on this plan of action, but I stuck to it for 15 years. For the first few years, it seemed like a good idea, but from that time on, I really wanted the courage to get back on a plane. I really love to travel!
When my oldest son was young- maybe 3 or 4, we were reading one of his books and I came across a chapter about The Giant's Causeway. I felt so drawn to this area and knew some flying would need to happen for me to get to Northern Ireland.
That day did come and I feel so grateful it did. Flying still isn't my favorite thing to do, but thankfully my anxiety does not control that part of my life anymore. I have the Giant's Causeway to thank for that. It motivated me to explore further than what my car could take me.
This visit to Giant's Causeway was a personal victory for me and I felt so grateful for it!