Family Outings: The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Walk in the footsteps of Finn MacCool
Sunday 18 July 2004
The Giant's Causeway is one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world, comprising some 40,000 basalt columns, mainly hexagonal, formed by volcanic action 60 million years ago. They are huddled together at the shoreline, rising to around 30ft at the highest point. The stones have a backdrop of spectacular cliffs and seascape where kittiwake and gannet wheel overhead.
Something for children
The stones are a place of amazement and wonder, where imaginations can run riot. Let your children decide between the geological explanation for the stones, and the fairy tales linked to Finn MacCool, the giant whom legend says built the causeway. They can follow the Finn MacCool trail which gives names to all the weird and wonderful rock formations they can seek out, from the wishing chair to the Giant's boot. Get them to hunt out the rarer four- and seven-sided stones, though remember the causeway meanders into an open, usually turbulent, sea.
Something for adults
Stand and stare. The stones are a Unesco-designated world heritage sight and the closer you get to them, the more amazing they become.
The National Trust café sells the usual NT menu of speciality teas, cakes and overpriced sandwiches.
Wade through the tat and you will find some quite tasteful jewellery and spectacular photographs.
Admission and access
You can visit at any time and, with 500,000 visitors a year, it's best to go early. Entrance is free. The shop and the visitor centre are open 10am-6pm daily. A bus (£1.20) makes the short journey down to the stones for those with limited mobility.
How to get there
The Giant's Causeway, near Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland (028-2073 1855). By car: from Belfast, take M2, then A26, pick up A2 coastal road and finally the B146. By bus: No 172 runs intermittently along the coast and will take you to the towns of Bushmills, Portrush and Portstewart. A narrow-gauge railway runs between Bushmills and the causeway.
See www.northantrim.com/giantscauseway.htm for further information.
arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
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