When the world was molded and fashioned out of formless chaos,” wrote William Thackeray, “this must have been the bit left over— a remnant of chaos.” The scenery of Northern Ireland is its primary attraction, and few attractions are as notable as the grand, strange, and astonishing Giant’s Causeway.
Now under the attentive auspices of the National Trust, this honeycomb mass along the island’s northern coast is made up of more than 40,000 volcanic basalt columns (each a foot or two across) created by volcanic eruptions some sixty million years ago. Things have changed considerably since early-17th-century travelers made the taxing trip to this wild edge of the island by horseback, with a stop for a tippling of the King’s whiskey at Bushmills, the world’s oldest distillery (licensed in 1608 but with historical references dating from 1276).
The distillery is still there, but go easy on the amber elixir today if you want to hopscotch around the Causeway’s tightly packed formations of mostly hexagonal pipes (some with four or five, others with as many ; as ten sides and reaching as high as 40 feet), | or tool along the clifftop belvederes to marvel at the Causeway from afar.
If modern-day visitors are struck with wonder at the sight, imagine the disbelief of the ancient Irish who attributed this geological wonder to the fabled giant Finn McCool. The legendary Ulster warrior of Irish myth was said to have created the Causeway as a bridge to his lady love on the Scottish island of Staffa.