14 Things To Know Before Visiting The Giant’s Causeway

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

The Giant’s Causeway is, without doubt, one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland and it’s hands down the most popular of the many things to do in Northern Ireland.

A series of some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, this magnificent phenomenon attracts thousands of visitors each year. 

With the steely waters of the ocean lapping up against towering columns of basalt set below soaring cliffs, this area boasts some of the best coastal scenery in Northern Ireland.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the Giant’s Causeway, from tours and ticket prices to how to get in for free and more!

5 quick Giant’s Causeway facts to get you up to speed

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We’re going to kick-start this guide with some speedy Giant’s Causeway facts before we get into the belly of the guide.

Below, you’ll discover everything from when the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland formed to how many basalt columns it boasts.

1. Where to find it

You’ll find the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, where it’s situated on Ireland’s northwest coast. It’s a stone throw from a number of other attractions, like Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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!

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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.

7 things to Know If you’re planning on visiting the Giant’s Causeway

giant's causeway history
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Next up, you’ll find a heap of information that covers everything you need to know if you plan on visiting the Giant’s Causeway.

The section below covers the often infamous Giant’s Causeway parking, opening hours, ticket prices and lots more.

1. It’s can get 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 can, try and arrive when it opens. If you can’t, be prepared to surrounded by hundreds of other tourists.

2. Don’t park up at the side of the road

As you approach the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, you’ll often see cars parked up on the grassy verge to the right. It’s easy to think, ‘Happy days – I’ll just stick the car here’.

Although we’ve recommended doing this in the past, there’s been a lot of talk of people getting parking tickets/fines for doing this, so keep that in mind.

3. There are other options for free Giant’s Causeway parking

Although many visitors who come to visit drive all the way to the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre and end up paying a pretty penny for parking, the reality is that you can easily park for free if you’re visiting Ireland on a budget

You can park for free in the nearby village of Portballintrae and take a path that runs right the way along the beach. It’s an hour each way, so it’ll only suit those that fancy a ramble.

4. 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.

5. There’s a huge visitor centre (with a restaurant) on-site

As one of Ireland’s most visited sites, the Giant’s Causeway is blessed with a cracking visitor centre to enjoy.

A state of the art space built to reflect the natural beauty of the Causeway, the centre is home to a gift shop, cafeteria and displays on the history and significance of the site.

6. There’s plenty to amuse the kids

Children especially love the interactive nature of exhibitions here and they regularly throw events celebrating local myth and legend through reenactment.

At the restaurant, local ingredients are the order of the day, with everything from Antrim seafood to locally made cheeses on offer.

7. Ticket prices and opening hours

Entrance to the Giant’s Causeway is free of charge as long as you do not go via the visitor’s centre. This can be a good idea for those wanting to visit very early in the day or later on at sunset when the centre is closed.

Visiting via the visitor centre is possible from 10 am to 4 pm year-round, with prices starting at £13 for an adult and £6.50 for children.

The best Giant’s Causeway tour

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.

There are tonnes of different Giant’s Causeway tour providers… tonnes! With most offering day trips from Dublin or Belfast. 

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.

However, with proper planning, it is possible to enjoy a memorable trip from Dublin to the Giant’s Causeway. 

Another option for visitors to Dublin who want to include a trip to the Giant’s Causeway is to jump on the Giant’s Causeway tour with Finn McCool’s tours, which costs around €76.50, the tour includes a visit to the rope bridge.

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. 

Alternatively, head to Irish Tour Tickets for a similar offering from just £25 per person. The reality is that Belfast is littered with great options for a Giant’s Causeway tour.

Be sure to check online reviews before committing to any single option, with some including nice extras like knowledgeable tour guides and free entry.

FAQs about visiting the Giants Causeway

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Photo by Arthur Ward via Ireland’s Content Pool

We’ve received hundreds of emails over the years from people asking about everything from parking and tours to how to get to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast.

In the final section of this guide, we’ve popped in the most FAQs. Have a question that we haven’t answered? Ask away below!

1. How to get from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway via public transport

The best way to get from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway via public transport is to go on the train from Belfast Lanyon Place to Coleraine before changing onto the line 402 bus which will take you all the way to the Giants Causeway. The cost of the trip is £9 – £14.

2. Is there somewhere to eat nearby?

One worry for visitors to the Giant’s Causeway is whether or not there will be somewhere to eat and drink in the area after some hard exploring. Luckily, there absolutely is! The Nook at the Giant’s Causeway is a particularly popular spot serving proper Irish food that will nourish the body and soul.

3. Where is the Giants Causeway?

Located on the coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway sits in County Antrim. The nearest town, Bushmills, is around three miles away.

4. How far is the Giants Causeway from Belfast?

The Giant’s Causeway sits on the northwest coast some fifty-one miles from Belfast. It take just over an hour in a car to reach it from Northern Ireland’s capital.

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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