Giant's Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway

There are both quaint and scientific explanations for the Causeway...

Legend of Fionn MacCumhaill

Legend claims that Fionn MacCumhaill, the giant, built the causeway as a pathway to Staffa. The existence of similar basalt columns at Fingal’s Cave reinforced belief in the legend.

Fionn MacCumhall lived on the North Antrim coast and looked across to Staffa, home of his enemy, Benandonner. The reasons for the quarrel are unknown but Fionn and Benandonner may have been competing over a giantess who lived on Staffa. No boat was strong enough to carry either giant so Fionn and Benandonner did not meet. Determined to confront Benandonner, Fionn spent almost a week building a bridge from Ireland to Staffa. He did not stop working for six days and when he laid the final stones, Fionn fell asleep on the causeway. The thundering footsteps pounding on the causeway awoke Fionn who saw the giant Benandonner approaching. When Fionn saw that Benandonner was almost twice his own size, Fionn raced home to Oonagh, his wife. Oonagh wrapped Fionn up in blankets as if he was a baby and left him to sleep in a large cradle by the fire side. When Oonagh welcomed Benandonner into her home, she explained that Fionn would arrive soon and that Benandonner could wait by the fireside, as long as he did not awake the sleeping infant. When Bendandonner saw the huge size of Fionn’s child, he could only imagine the size of the baby’s father. A fearful Benandonner ran back to Staffa, tearing up the causeway to prevent Fionn from following.

Geology of the Causeway

Geological evidence explains the Causeway as the aftermath of an ancient volcano. Sixty five million years ago, Antrim experienced intense volcanic activity, when fluid molten basalt broke apart chalk beds to form a lava plateau. When the molten lava hit the seawater, it cooled quickly and formed the polygonal columns. There were three periods of volcanic activity which resulted in the flows known as the lower, upper and middle basalts. The similar basalt formations at the site of Fingal’s cave on Staffa are part of the same lava flow which began in Antrim.

Find out more on the National Trust Website