The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is one of the most visited attractions by tourists who go to the North during a complete tour of Ireland or by those who take advantage of the many Giant’s Causeway tours from Dublin or from Belfast. If you are planning your holiday in Ireland, you have included in your itinerary also the north of the country and look for information on the Giant’s Causeway, in this article you will find everything you need: location, how to get there, prices and visit also the best places where to stay near Giant’s Causeway
and places where to eat.
Where is The Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is located at the northern end of Ireland. Precisely, it is located about 3 km north of the town of Bushmills, in County Antrim. It can be reached by following the coastal road called Causeway Coastal Route or from the inside, via Belfast. In 1986, Giant’s Causeway has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The legend of the Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway has always been linked to a legend according to which the Irish giant Finn McCool would build this stone path to reach in Scotland by feet and fight the giant rival, Benandonner. Before reaching Scotland, Finn fell asleep and it was Benandonner who reached Ireland using the trail to kill Finn; the wife of the Irish giant, to prevent her husband from being killed, covered him with a cloth and pretended that the one under the blanket was their son. The giant Benandonner, frightened by the size of the child, thought that if the kid was so big, Finn was even bigger. He decided to return to Scotland, not without first destroying part of the Giant’s Path so that Finn could not reach it on the other side.
Giant’s Causeway: the real story
Despite the fascinating legend, Giant’s Causeway is the result of a natural event that took place over 60 million years ago: sixty million years ago, in fact, the area of Antrim was subjected to an intense volcanic activity that made lava flow on a plaster basement. The lava, in contact with water and air, quickly cooled, giving rise to the hexagonal basaltic columns that today form the Giant’s Causeway. Specifically, there were three periods of volcanic activity that gave rise to different types of basalt formations, Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts, and the hexagonal rocks of the Giant’s Causeway are those formed in the Middle. With time and the action of sea and wind, to the hexagonal rocks were added round rocks and a series of lava formations that can be seen on the sides of the coast and the mountain, as for example what has been called “The Organ”. The whole area of Antrim was affected by the volcanic activity that gave life to the Path of the Giant. The area was officially discovered in 1693 and its formation was attributed precisely to the giant Finn; it was only in 1771 that the scientific nature of this area of Ireland was established and it was established that the phenomenon originated from the eruption of a volcano.
Prices, timetables and logistic information to visit the Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway prices
Visiting Giant’s Causeway is FREE OF CHARGE. In fact, it is possible to visit the rocks without paying anything as long as you leave the car outside the official parking lot. The parking costs £11.50 per car and you do not need to pay more money to visit the Path: the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center is not part of Giant’s Causeway and it is not obligatory to visit it and pay 11.50 GBP per person to enter!
When you arrive, there is no sign that clearly explains that you do not pay to see the Giant’s Causeway; the only sign is the one showing the prices for parking and the prices for tickets for adults and children for the visitor center. Most tourists think that it is the price to pay to get in the attraction but in reality it is nothing more than the price to park the car and to enter the Visitor Center. So if you park in the official parking lot you can pay only GBP 11.50 for the car and you do not have to pay anything else: it’s up to you to pay to access the Visitor Center, the gift shop and the bathrooms (plus having an official audio guide with you, optional) or if you wanna freely enjoy nature.
Parking at the Giant’s Causeway
Some people park on the road near Giant’s Causeway but it is absolutely not recommended as it is forbidden to do so; especially in high season, there are many car fined and towed. The locals contact the police to remove the cars, also because very often tourists park on private spaces.
I highly recommend you park at the official parking lot, pay the £11.50 for the car and go inside!
The best times to visit Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway is always open and the best times to visit are early in the morning (let’s say at dawn) and in the evening after sunset. The worst hours are from 11 to 13 as this is the arrival time of the tourist buses, both from Belfast and Dublin; even the sunset is quite crowded.
The route to the Giant’s Causeway
Although the most famous part is the area with basalt rocks, to achieve this you can opt for two solutions:
- Follow the paved road which can be accessed near the Visitor Center and get directly close to the sea;
Follow the red path that is on the right of the Visitor Center and that runs along the cobblestones from above, allowing you to admire it from above and to see even more than just basalt rocks. Along this route there is also the Giant’s Organ, a 12 meter high basalt rock formation.
My advice is to follow this path, get to The Giant’s Boot, a large boot-shaped stone that is said to be the foot of the giant Finn, enjoy The Wishing Chair (the most famous part, with the hexagonal blocks) and then go up the asphalt road to admire the fantastic surrounding landscape.
Tips for visiting Giant’s Causeway
- Dress in layers and always wear a waterproof jacket: the cliff is right on the Atlantic Ocean and is regularly beaten by the wind;
- Wear comfortable shoes: the surface of the Causeway is irregular and often wet so it is necessary to use comfortable and above all non-slippery shoes;
- Pay attention to the sea: even if the desire to approach the sea is very strong, the waves can be high and powerful and arrive unexpectedly. Pay attention to how you move and follow the indications of the operators present on site to avoid problems;
- Follow only the marked trails: not only to avoid problems but also to preserve nature.
Best places to stay near Giant’s Causeway
To better plan your visit to the Giant’s Causeway and to the whole coast, I recommend to stay in the area so as to plan the visit to the best times. These are some structures you can find in the area, which can be booked directly online:
Close to Giant’s Causeway, a traditional Irish B & B with no major pretensions. Perfect for those looking for a not too expensive accommodation. Click to see the hotel and to book.
Directly inside Giant’s Causeway, a hotel suitable for those who want to have the opportunity to visit the Causeway and the surrounding areas without any hurry. The rooms are simple, but you eat well and the location is really beautiful. Not to mention that you have free parking. Click to see the hotel and to book.
Causeway Smithy B&B
A few kilometers from the Causeway, it offers well-appointed rooms and a common lounge where you can relax. Click to see the hotel and to book.
Carnside Guest House
Located a 10-minute walk from the Giant’s Causeway, Carnside Guest House is set in a slightly elevated position and ensures you can enjoy beautiful views. Click to see the hotel and to book.
Where to eat near Giant’s Causeway
There are not so many restaurants along the Causeway road as you might think, and many of those located in this area are open only at special times. The following are all places where to eat I highly recommend, and even if you need to drive a little bit from the Causeway, they’re worth a stop:
- Bushmills Inn in Bushmill
- Harry’s Shack at Portstewart
- Ramore Restaurant in Portrush
- Red Door Tea Rooms a in Ballintoy
- Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy (where one of the gates of Game of Thrones is also located)
- Mary McBride’s in Cushendun, (where one of the gates of Game of Thrones is also located)
Giant’s Causeway tours from Dublin
It is not unusual to find groups of tourists who decide to treat themselves to a walk to the Giant’s Causeway during their stay in Dublin. Tours usually start very early in the morning and include several stops in Northern Ireland, all perfectly planned to allow visitors to get a taste of the beauty of this part of the country.
Giant’s Causeway tours from Belfast
Many tours also depart from Belfast, for those who stay in the city and do not want to rent a car. Here are some of the most popular and appreciated:
If you’re read this guide, you’re now ready for your trip to Giant’s Causeway. If you’re looking for more information for your trip to Ireland, read
We know how to give you these tips on Ireland, as real experts of the place, and of which we write often (more here) because we have moved to Dublin for a long time and we work in the tourism industry, helping tourists who want to organize a trip to Ireland. So, ours are not guides on Ireland based on a holiday but based on knowledge and experience. If you need more information please contact us by email and we will be happy to answer your questions and help you if you want to come to Ireland and are looking for personalized tours, travel ideas or just tips. You can also find us on social media: on Instagram (Veru and Giuseppe), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
[All pics are copyright by Giuseppe Milo]