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The Giants Causeway on the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland is without doubt one of the most awesome natural sights in the world and is regarded many as being worthy of inclusion as the Eighth Natural Wonders of the World.
The coastal scenery adjacent to the causeway is some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring that you are likely to find anywhere. Legend has it that Finn Mc Cumhaill built the causeway to do battle with a Scottish giant that was daring him to fight.
The majestic cliffs and inaccessible bays combine with myth and legend to inspire, but look carefully amongst this breathtaking landscape and you will find echoes of another reality, isolated ruins, kelp walls and shoreline fields bear testament to the harder life of subsistence farming and fishing endured by past generations.
The area is also close to the famous Bushmills Distillery and this is an attraction not be missed if you are in the area.
The causeway was formed during the early Tertiary period some 62 – 65 million years ago over a long period of igneous activity. Three lava outflows occurred known as the Lower, Middle and Upper Basaltic. Lulls occurred between the outflows as is evident in the deep inter-basaltic layer of reddish brown ‘lithomarge’ which is rich in clay, iron and aluminium oxides from weathering of the underlying basalt. The causeway area would have been situated in an equatorial region at that time, experiencing hot and humid conditions. This came about due to the fact that the earth’s crust is floating on moving plates known as ‘tectonic plates’ – these move slowly but over millions of years they can travel thousands of miles. The hexagonal columns of the causeway occur in the middle basalt layer, the same formations can be seen at Staffa in Scotland (Fingal’s Cave) and they also occurs in the surrounding landscape of North Antrim and in fact many other parts of the world.
The fascinating pattern that we see in the causeway stones formed as a result of rock crystallization under conditions of accelerated cooling, this usually occurs when molten lava comes into immediate contact with water, as happens today in Hawaii, the resulting fast accelerated cooling process causes cracking and results in what we see today at the causeway.