Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Giants Causeway & the Legend of Finn McCool

The Giant's Causeway in Ireland is a place I have long wanted to see. So you can imagine my excitement when I finally got there. This is me standing upon it imagining all manner of mythical giants and the accompanying legend of what once took place here.

The place is breathtakingly beautiful. On the day we visited, it was very windy which added to the drama. The waves were riding high with white horses. This set the perfect backdrop for the legend of Finn McCool. 

So the legend goes that Finn McCool was a giant, reaching 54 feet tall. Finn lived with his wife Oonagh on the Antrim coast. One day he learned of a rival living in Scotland known as Benandonner. Finn was taunted by Benandonner when finally, Finn reached out and scooped up a clod of earth, and hurled it across the sea at him. He misssed and the clod landed in the Irish Sea, creating the Isle of Man where it landed, and the hole it left in the earth became Loch Neagh. 

Finn challenged Benandonner to fight. He decided to build a causeway made of giant stones to make a path across the sea to Scotland. The legend goes that as he made his way along his causeway as he neared Scotland he caught sight of Benandonner. Finn fled home, afraid, but Benandonner was fast on his trail. Finn reached home and asked his wife to hide him. 

At this point his wife in good humour, dressed Finn as a baby. Cleverly she pushed him into a huge cradle. When Benandonner approached and saw the size of the sleeping baby, he assumed its' father must be huge indeed and he took off at great speed back to Scotland ripping up the causeway as he retreated for fear of being followed. 

Whether you believe in legend or whether you prefer the more scientific origins of the causeway, one thing is 100% certain. This place is amazing. The scenery is magnificent. The surrounding rocks and cliffs are impressive. 

The science bit - 65 million years ago, after the dinosaurs were gone, but before us, the world was a very different place. The land was chalky, and forests and rivers covered much of it. The continents were still joined - this was before the huge earth's plates moved to the locations where we now reside. As the plates began to move, creating the Atlantic as it separated, molten lava (hot magma) spewed at 1000 degrees. 

The lava spread across the chalky limestone land, burning the plant life as it went. When it cooled it formed a dark grey rock known as Basalt. The causeway is composed of this Basalt, this solidified lava. As the lava cooled, it cracked and shrank creating patterns much like that you see in dried earth or mud in river or lake beds. In the causeway, many of these regular shapes have five or six sides, and certainly when you clamber over it that seems the case. 

However, I have since read that some have four, seven or eight sides, and rumour has it that there is just one with three sides. I wish I had known - I would have spent my time hunting for it, instead of doing this:

Spectacular views to be had from climbing this pathway. I would most definitely not recommend it in high winds. I was convinced that the wind would tear me from the cliff face - you can see the angle of my hair as testament to the blowing wind!! I hadn't dressed very appropriately for a quick cliff climb either - you don't often see mountaineers in jeans and leather jackets really and there is a reason for that. 

All in all I definetely recommend a visit here. There is plenty more to be seen and done in Northern Ireland, but this takes some beating. Add it to your places to go list.