Visiting The Giant’s Causeway: History, Facts, Tickets And Seeing It For Free

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

I‘ve a love/hate relationship with the Giant’s Causeway, mainly due to the ridiculous parking charges.

The Giant’s Causeway itself is free to visit if you’re walking, but if you’re driving and you want to park at the visitor centre, you need to pay for each person in your car.

Now, there are ways of visiting the Giant’s Causeway for free, and you’ll find them below, but if you drive up with 3 adults in the car you could end up forking out £39…

In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from how to do a nice coastal ramble to the Causeway to facts, tours and tickets.

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

the giants causeway ireland
Photo by Kanuman (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to the Giant’s Causeway is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find it on the Antrim Coastal Route, a 5-minute drive from the Old Bushmills Distillery, a 10-minute drive from Dunluce Castle and a 15-minute drive from Carrick-a-rede.

2. Ticket prices / parking

So, entry to the Giant’s Causeway is free if you’re walking – however, if you want to park and/or go into the visitor centre, you pay for each person in your vehicle. Adult: £13.00, Child: £6.50 and a Family: £32.50.

3. Opening hours

The opening hours change slightly, depending on time of the year, however, the visitor centre is generally open from around 10:00 to 17:00 while parking is open all day.

4. How to see it for free

You can visit the Giant’s Causeway for free if you walk from either Dunserverick Castle or Portballintrae. These are long and scenic coastal walks. If you/someone you’re travelling with has limited mobility, you’re best off parking at the visitor centre. More info below.

5. It gets insanely busy here

I’ve visited the Giant’s Causeway three times over the years. On every single visit, without fail, the place was painfully busy. If you’re visiting via one of the walk below, try and visit before the visitor centre opens.

6. The weather plays a big part

If you arrive at the Giant’s Causeway on a day when the rain is pummeling down, you’re in for a bit of a tough time, unless you wait it out.

Unsurprisingly enough, the Giant’s Causeway is completely exposed, and it takes a bit of time to walk down to it from the visitor centre. If you arrive on a bad day, you’ll be soaked, so ensure to 1, pack rain gear and 2, pack a change of clothes.

How to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free / for much less

giants causeway tour
Photo by Gert Olsson (Shutterstock)

So, there are a few ways of visiting the Giant’s Causeway for free or for a severely reduced price. For example, if 3 adults parked at the official car park, it’d cost £39.

If 3 adults used the alternative Giant’s Causeway parking listed below, it’d cost just £5… a saving of a whopping £34.

1. The Causeway Coast Way Car Park (10 minute walk)

You can park at the Causeway Coast Way Car Park. It is, at the time of typing, £5 to park here and it’s a 10-minute walk up to the pathway at the Visitor Centre (note: you’ll need to walk along the road and there’s no path, so care is needed).

This Giant’s Causeway car park operates off a pay by phone system, so you need to ring the number on the sign in the car park and pay by card.

2. Walk from Portballintrae (1.5 – 2 hour loop)

Park your car for free at Salmon Rock Beach and take the 1.5 to 2-hour coastal loop from Portballintrae. This is a gorgeous coastal walk that treats you to stunning views throughout. Good walking shoes are needed as the trail can get muddy in places.

3. Walk from Dunseverick Castle (1.5 hours each way)

If you fancy a decent ramble, you can always park at Dunseverick Castle and take the 4.8 mile (one way) trail to the Causeway. The scenery is incredible and the trail, for the most part, is well maintained.

The walk from the castle to the Causeway takes roughly 1.5 hours each way. If you don’t fancy walking back to the car, you can get the Translink Service 172 from near The Nook just down from the visitor centre back to Dunseverick.

About the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Right, now that we have info on the Giant’s Causeway parking out of the way, it’s time to dive into some Giant’s Causeway facts.

1. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site

The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is considered by many to be among Europe’s greatest natural wonders. It made the list thanks to the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ that it offers visitors.

2. It’s old. Really old

It’s believed that the Giant’s Causeway is between a whopping 50 and 60 million years old (more info on how it formed below) and geologists have been studying the Causeway for nearly 300 years.

3. It’s made up of 40,000+ basalt columns 

One of the most popular Giant’s Causeway facts is the number of huge, black basalt columns that it comprises of – there are 40,000 of them jutting proudly out of the sea.

4. There’s a ‘giant’ tale linked to the Causeway

According to Irish folklore, the Giant’s Causeway was formed after an Irish giant was challenged to a fight by a fierce Scottish Giant (more info below). The story goes that the Causeway is in fact stepping stones that the Irish giant used to get to Scotland.

How was the Giant’s Causeway Formed? The facts and the folklore!

giants causeway tour
Photo by Gert Olsson (Shutterstock)

Now, you tend to hear two different stories about how the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland formed. The first story is the sciencey one. It involves volcanic activity and that kind of thing.

The second is a tale that many people that grew up in Ireland were told at bedtime. I’m talking, of course, about the legend of Finn MacCumhaill and his fight with a Scottish giant.

Story 1: Volcanos and eruptions

Roughly 60 million years ago, the area around what is now known as the Giant’s Causeway was a hotbed of volcanic activity.

This era is referred to as the Paleocene Epoch, a time when the earth looked very different from how we see it today When molten basalt leaked through chalk beds to make a large lava plateau, the lava cooled and then contracted.

Horizontal contraction fractured and the cracks propagated down as things cooled, hence the pillarlike structures we see today.

In most situations, the horizontal fracture brought about a convex bottom end whilst the upper was concave. The size of the columns was determined by how quickly the lava cooled. 

Story 2: The legend of Fionn MacCumhaill

Although story 1 is the official, scientific explanation of how the Causeway formed, there remain those who err on the side of ancient legend to explain how the Giant’s Causeway was formed.

According to Irish mythology, the causeway was formed when a giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill built it to get to Scotland for a duel with another giant.

Whilst certainly more entertaining than the official version of events, this explanation is today mostly reserved for children! Read the full story in our guide to the legend of the Giant’s Causeway.

The best Giant’s Causeway tours

giants causeway weather and tickets
Photo by Sandra Mori (Shutterstock)

We receive a constant stream of emails and direct messages from tourists asking for advice on the best Giant’s Causeway tour.

Note: if you book a tour through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

Giant’s Causeway Tours from Dublin

When it comes to visiting the Giant’s Causeway from Dublin, it is key to remember that it’ll take just over three hours to get there by car/tour bus, so factor that into your planning. Here are two with excellent reviews:

Giant’s Causeway Tours from Belfast

Viator is another great option for those looking to visit the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast. They offer a nine and a half hour day trip to the Giant’s Causeway for just £35 per person. Here are two with excellent reviews:

Things to do near the Giant’s Causeway

One of the beauties of Menlo Castle is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter some of the best places to visit in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Causeway (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Old Bushmills Distillery (5-minute drive)

bushmills distillery tour
Photo via Bushmills

One of the most popular things to do near the Giant’s Causeway (especially when it’s raining!) is to do the Old Bushmills Distillery tour. It’s popular among whiskey lovers and non-whiskey drinkers alike. You can also visit The Dark Hedges when you’re done. 

2. Castles galore (10 to 20-minute drive)

dunluce castle antrim
Photos via Shutterstock

One of the more unique things to do near the Giant’s Causeway is to visit one of the many medieval ruins that can be found nearby. Dunluce Castle is a 10-minute drive away, Dunseverick Castle is a 5-minute drive and Kinbane Castle is a 20-minute drive.

3. Heaps more attractions (10 to 25-minute drive)

portrush strand
Photo by Monicami (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for more things to do near the Giant’s Causeway, you’ve plenty to choose from, with many of the most popular Causeway Coastal Route attractions a short spin away. Here are some of our favourites:

FAQs about Giant’s Causeway facts and tours

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how was the Giant’s Causeway formed

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.

Where is the best parking near the Giant’s Causeway?

If you don’t want to get stung with the hefty Giant’s Causeway parking charges at the visitor centre, park at the Causeway Coast Way Car Park (10 minute walk) for £5.

How can you visit the Giant’s Causeway for free?

If you want to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free, park at Dunseverick Castle or Salmon Rock Beach (info on the walks above).

What are the best things to do near the Giant’s Causeway?

There are plenty of things to do near the Giant’s Causeway, from Dunluce Castle and the Bushmills Distillery to The Dark Hedges and more (see above).

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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