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The Giant’s Causeway Legend And The Now-Famous Finn McCool Story

The Giant’s Causeway Legend And The Now-Famous Finn McCool Story

The Giant’s Causeway legend / the Finn McCool story is arguably one of the best know tales from Irish mythology.

It features a giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill (aka Finn McCool) and it tells the story of his battle with a Scottish giant, named Benandonner.

According to the Giant’s Causeway Legend, the battle between Fionn MacCumhaill and the Scottish giant led to the creation of the magnificent Giants Causeway.

In the guide below, I’m going to tell you the story as it was told to me as a young lad growing up in Ireland.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Giant’s Causeway Legend

giants causeway tour

Photo by Gert Olsson (Shutterstock)

As is the case with many Irish legends, the Finn McCool story changes depending on who is telling it. Here are some quick need-to-knows:

1. Finn vs Fionn

So, depending on who tells the story, the Giant’s Causeway myth will feature an Irish giant named Finn or Fionn. Both are the same and they are based on the warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

2. Brain vs brawn

Although the legend aims to offer an alternative insight into how the Causeway was formed, it also does a good job of showing why we should consider using brains over brawn during times of potential conflict.  

The Finn McCool story: A tale of two giants

giants causeway ireland

Photo left: Lyd Photography. Right: Puripat Lertpunyaroj (Shutterstock)

The legend of the Giant’s Causeway begins long ago deep within the hills of County Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland. It was here that an Irish giant who’s name was known the length and breadth of Ireland resided. 

I’m talking, of course, about the mighty Fionn Mac Cumhaill / Finn MacCool. Now Fionn was no ordinary giant. Oh no – he was the biggest and strongest giant in all of Ireland. It’s said that the Irish giant’s booming voice could be heard for miles and miles around.

Along came a messenger

It was on a wet and wild winters morning that a loud knock rang out on the door of Fionn’s home, which he shared with his wife. The caller was a weary messenger that had travelled to Ireland from Scotland.

He was there to deliver a message that was sent by an infamous Scottish giant named Benandonner. Benandonner wanted to challenge Fionn to a fight so that he could prove that he was bigger and stronger than any giant in Ireland.

Benandonner was big… very big

Although Fionn had never laid eyes on Benandonner, he had heard a whisper that he was the largest and most fierce giant in all of Scotland.

Enraged by Benandonner’s sheer cheek, Fionn immediately accepted the challenge, but there was a slight snag – how would he get across to Scotland?!

He decided that the quickest way across would be to build a path big and strong enough to hold his weight. Finn made his way out to the Antrim coast and began tearing up large chunks of coastline and firing them into the water.

The the Giant’s Causeway myth starts to get interesting

the giants causeway ireland

Photo by Kanuman (Shutterstock)

It’s from this point, that the Finn McCool story gets very interesting. Back in Scotland, Benandonner heard word of what the giant from Ireland was doing.

Half surprised his challenge was accepted and half excited at the prospect of a brawl, he started building a path from his side.

Building the path from Scotland

After two long tedious days, a path long enough to connect the two countries had been built. Still furious, the giant Finn McCool wasted no time and began charging across the path towards Scotland and Benandonner.

However, across the pond, the exhausted Scottish giant had decided to grab 40 winks and ended up falling asleep by the shore.

When Finn arrived and laid his eyes upon Benandonner he was stunned speechless. Benandonner wasn’t big – he was enormous.

A cunning plan was hatched

Here’s where the legend of the Giant’s Causeway gets interesting. Finn decided that he didn’t want to be around when Benandonner awoke, so he retreated back to Ireland.

Once he reached his home in the hills he recounted what he saw to his wife. They both knew what would happen next. Once Benandonner realised Finn was not coming, he would thunder across the path to Ireland in search of his fight.

However, Finn’s wife had a master plan to save her husband. Using bedclothes and some other material, she sowed some giant baby clothes together which she gave to Finn to change into. 

She then made him step into a large cradle that was kept in the living room by the fire where he huddled up like a baby. At sunrise the following morning there was a loud knock on the door.

Will the story of FinnMcCool come to a violent end…

giant's causeway history

Photo by DrimaFilm (Shutterstock)

 Finn’s wife answered and there in the doorway stood the towering body of Benandonner. Once inside Benandonner wasted no time in looking for the Irish giant Finn MacCool. First, he tore into the kitchen – but it was completely empty.

He then burst open the door to the bedroom – but it was also empty. Finally, he entered the living room and he immediately caught sight of the cradle by the fire.

A huge baby

His eyes widened. The baby nestled inside was monstrous. Benandonner was shocked. He thought that if the baby of Finn MacCool is this big, his father, the giant Finn, must be huge.

He made his excuses and escaped from Ireland as fast as his massive feet could take him. Nowadays, those visiting the Giant’s Causeway can get a glimpse of the area where Finn first began creating his path to Scotland long ago.

Oh, I nearly forgot – and they all lived happily ever after!

Finn McCool and the Giants Causeway Story

As I mentioned at the very beginning of this guide, there’s no end to the number of variations that there is of the legend of Finn and the Giant’s Causeway story

Do you know a different version? Let me know in the comments section below!

If you’d like to learn more about Irish culture and the many tales and legends that had stood the test of time, visit our guides to Irish folklore and Irish mythology.

FAQs about the Finn McCool story

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from which is the best version of the Finn McCool story to what Giant’s Causeway myth is the most accurate.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What is the Giant’s Causeway legend?

The Giant’s Causeway myth all revolves around the Fionn McCool story. According to legend, the Causeway was created during a disagreement between a Scottish giants and an Irish giant.

Is the Finn McCool and the Giant’s Causeway myth real?

I’d love to say it is, but the Causeway formed around 60 million years ago, when the area around it was a hotbed of volcanic activity.

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Saturday 26th of November 2022

The story I heard ended with the Scottish giant taking the bridge apart stone by stone so Finn could not follow him

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