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Giant's Causeway Day Trip

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Basalt Columns | Must see sights at Giant's Causeway | Northern Ireland Causeway Coastal Route
Basalt Columns

If you love the outdoors, a Giant’s Causeway day trip is an unforgettable Northern Ireland experience. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site in County Antrim, visitors can hear the legend of Finn McCool and learn about the park’s unique geology. Out on the trail, there are cliffs to hike and columns of 60-million-year-old basalt rock to climb. Use our travel blog to learn everything you need to know about visiting the hauntingly beautiful seascapes of the Giant’s Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway Day Trip | UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Giant's Causeway Day Trip
A Day Trip to Giant's Causeway Guide At A Glance, County Antrim, Norther Ireland UK

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Road to the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Road to the Giant's Causeway

WHERE IS GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Giant’s Causeway (Irish: Clochán an Aifir) is located on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. The Causeway is in the village of Bushmills in Antrim County. It is found along the Causeway Coastal Route about 61 miles north of Belfast. The physical address is: 44 Causeway Road, Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8SU.

Hexagonal Basalt Rock and Building Blocks | Giant's Causeway Day Trip, Northern Ireland, UK Travel
Hexagonal Building Blocks

WHAT IS THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

The Giant’s Causeway is a 4-mile stretch on land that lies between a ridge of cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a region of remarkable geographical significance where some 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns push up out of the sea. These columns give the appearance of pavement or stepping stones and have given rise to legends of giants using the stones as massive building blocks.

Finn McCool's  Causeway | How was the Giant's Causeway Formed, County Antrim, UK Travel Guide
Finn McCool's Causeway

Northern Ireland has declared the area a National Nature Reserve and it is one of the most visited parks in the UK. Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is managed by the National Trust. At the park there is a network of trails running along the cliffs and seashore. A Visitor’s Center offers guided tours, audio tours, and a shuttle to bring visitors to some of the most stunning sections of park.

Trails on the Giant's Causeway Coast | Northern Ireland, UK Travel Guide
Trails on the Giant's Causeway Coast

HOW WAS THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY FORMED

The hexagonal blocks and basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway were forged between 50 and 60 million years ago. During this era North America was breaking away from Europe, and gaps in the Earth’s surface were filled with molten rock. Cycles of volcanic eruptions and cooling lava resulted in layers of basalt (dark, fine grain rock rich in minerals). These cooling layers cracked in even patterns resulting in the symmetrical formations we see today.

The Grand Causeway on the Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland | UK Travel Guide
The Grand Causeway

WHY IS IT CALLED GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

County Antrim legend has it that the area was once home to a giant named Finn McCool (Irish: Fionn mac Cumhaill). Finn’s nemesis, a giant named Benandonner, lived across the Irish Sea in Scotland. In order to confront Benadonner, one day Finn built a road across the sea from the stepping stones along the coast. After a fierce battle, Finn returned home and Benandonner ripped up the path – resulting in the Giant’s Causeway.


In another local myth, Finn builds the causeway to his love across the sea. In a gruesome twist of fate both Finn and his grandmother die in the telling of this fable. Around the nature reserve there are rocks and bays named for Finn (and his granny).

Finn and Benadonner's Highway | Giant's Causeway Day Trip | UK Travel Guide, Northern Ireland
Finn and Benadonner's Highway

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

In 1986, the Giant’s Causeway was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The declaration was based on two main criteria: 1) The massive basalt columns running along the coast are an area of exceptional natural beauty; and 2) The site’s columns have been crucial in furthering the understanding of Earth’s geological history.

Beginning of the Red Trail | Giant's Causeway Day Trip |Must see sights at the Giant's Causeway
Beginning of the Red Trail

IS IT WORTH VISITING GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

The Giant’s Causeway is one of those special places where pictures do not do the site justice. The Causeway’s cliffs, bays, and crashing surf are spectacular. Up close, the geometric columns of basalt rock have a striking, other-worldly appearance. Standing by sea contemplating the neat rows of rock extending into the Atlantic Ocean, one cannot help but be in awe of nature’s choreography.


Combine the beauty of the Giant’s Causeway with the National Trust’s strong commitment to maintain the integrity of the site, and a Giant's Causeway day trip is worth every vacation minute you devote to it. Giant’s Causeway is an international treasure.

Tide Pooling at the Giant's Causeway | Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland, UK Travel
Tide Pooling

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Season: The Giant’s Causeway is an outdoor park. Visitors are exposed to the wind, rain, sun, and other elements of the northern Atlantic Ocean while onsite. The rainiest, coldest months to visit are October through January. The busiest months are July and August. April, May, June, and September are recommended as the best time to visit Giant’s Causeway.


Best Time of Day: Most day tours from Belfast and other cities will arrive onsite and tour between 11am and 3pm. Therefore, it is recommended to arrive before 11 or after 3 for the most relaxing experience.

Inside the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre | UNESCO World Heritage Site, UK Travel Guide
Inside the Visitor Centre

NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION

Pro Tip: It is free to walk the Giant’s Causeway. Visitors can park off site and walk to the Causeway on foot at no charge (except for parking). Visitors who do not wish a guided tour, audio tour, or to use the shuttle can bypass the Visitor’s Centre and walk the road to the Giant’s Causeway. There are toilets on the outside of the Visitor Centre for those who choose to walk the site for free.

Under the Giant's Causeway Cliffs | Giant's Causeway Day Trip Travel Blog, UK Travel Guide
Under the Giant's Causeway Cliffs
Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

At the entry to the Giant’s Causeway there is a Visitor Center and car park. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center offers historical and geological exhibits, a café, gift shop, and rest rooms. It is where visitors meet for guided tours and/or pick up of audio tour equipment. The Centre is a about a mile from the Giant’s Causeway. Guests can hike the distance. Or, with the purchase of a Visitor Experience Ticket, take a shuttle to the site.

Shuttle Bus to the Giant's Causeway | Travel Blog | UNESCO World Heritage Site, UK Travel
Shuttle Bus to the Causeway
Visitor Experience Tickets

The purchase of a Visitor Experience Ticket gives visitors access to reserved on-site parking, on-the-hour guided tours, audio equipment for self-guided tours, and access to Centre exhibits as well as the café, gift shop, and rest rooms. Visitors are strongly encouraged to pre-book tickets through the Centre’s online portal to reduce queue times. Tickets are timed and visitors are asked to arrive within a 30-minute window. After entry, guests may stay as long as they like.


Giant’s Causeway Tickets

Prices vary throughout the year. For the 2023 season adult tickets range from $13.50 Euro to $15.00 Euros; Children $6.75 Euros to $7.50 Euros.

Outside the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre | Is it worth visiting Giant's Causeway
Outside the Visitor Centre
Giant's Causeway Parking

The purchase of a Visitor Experience Ticket includes reserved parking in the car park outside of the Visitor Centre. For those who choose not to buy a ticket, walkers can park in the Causeway Coastal Route Car Park (.3 miles away) for around $10.00 Euros on a Pay-By-Phone system. Or, park in Bushmills (about 2 miles away) and walk or take a bus to the site. Pro Tip: Do not park on the side of the road or risk being “clamped” and fined.


Giant’s Causeway Hours

Vary throughout the year. The Causeway is generally open from dawn to dusk; and the car park and Visitor Centre from 9am to 6pm.

Aerial View of the Giant's Causeway | UK Travel Guide
Aerial View of the Causeway

MUST-SEE SITES AT GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

  1. Camel Rock: Legend dictates that the camel was giant Finn McCool’s main means of transport. Science tells us that the formation is basaltic rock that formed a natural dyke while cooling.

  2. Clifftop Trails: Exiting the Visitor Centre visitors will find a series of trails that run along the coast and the cliffs above the causeway. The trails are of varying lengths and difficulties. The red, yellow, blue, and green trails offer dramatic views of the Giant’s Causeway and Northern Ireland coast. Trail maps can be obtained in the Visitor Center. Guests may also book a 5-mile Clifftop Experience hike.

  3. Giant’s Boot: In Port Noffer bay there is a path that leads to the sea where visitors will find a (rock) boot, size 93.5, that is reputed to have once belonged to Finn McCool. (Finn lost it as he fled from the Scottish giant, Benandonner.)

  4. Grand Causeway: The Grand Causeway is the biggest of three sections of basalt columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway. It is about mid-way along the paved park road.

  5. Wishing Chair: The wishing chair is another natural rock formation on-site. Visitors sit in the chair, which some liken to a throne, and make a wish while staring out at the sea.

  6. Visitor Centre: The Visitor Centre building itself is a site to behold. The building has won several awards for its design and sustainability concepts. Inside the Centre there are imaginative, educational exhibits which add to the overall experience of the day.

View of Ports Ganny and Noffer | Giant's Causeway Day Trip and Travel Blog
View of Ports Ganny and Noffer

OPTIONS FOR WALKING THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY

The Visitor Centre has maps marking the trails around the Causeway. We recommend you pick up a map and audio guide before heading outside to the Causeway. Exiting the Visitor Centre on the park side there are large signs denoting roads and trails along the Causeway:

Blue Trail at the Giant's Causeway | UNESCO World Heritage Site, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Blue Trail
Blue Trail

The Blue Trail is a sloping paved road with a sidewalk that links the Visitor Centre to the Giant’s Causeway. On this trail you will walk parallel with the shore and pass Portnabo Bay, Port Ganny, and Port Noffer. You can veer off the Blue Trail to tide pool, scramble over rocks, and see the Giant’s Boot and Wishing Chair. You can walk the Blue Trail both ways. Or if you are short on time, walk it one way and take the shuttle bus the other.


Pro Trip: It is mostly downhill from the Visitor Center to the Shuttle drop-off, and uphill on the way back.

Viewpoint from the Red Trail | Giant's Causeway Day Trip | UK travel guide and travel blog
Viewpoint from the Red Trail
Red Trail

Recommended Route: For a truly spectacular outing, leaving the Visitor Center take the Red Trail (on the right). This path will slope upwards and take you along the edge of cliffs that follow the coastline. With farmer’s fields on one side, and the crashing Atlantic surf on the other, the dramatic views are unmatched. When you get to the Shepard’s Steps, walk 162 steps downhill. At the bottom of the flight, turn left on the trail and walk downhill until you are at shore level. Then, take the Blue Trail along the coast back to the Centre (around 2.5-miles).

162 Steps from Red Trail to Blue Trail | Causeway Coastal Route, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
162 Steps from Red Trail to Blue Trail
Shuttle Bus

If you are short on time, have small children, or have mobility impaired individuals in your group, take the shuttle bus back and forth to the Causeway. The shuttle bus is fully accessible. It takes the paved road from the Visitor Centre about 1.25 miles down to the Giant’s Causeway (the area between Port Ganny and Port Noffer) where there is a turn around. Visitors can exit the bus at the turnaround, and walk or wheel around the site.

Giant's Causeway Stepping Stones | Best time to visit the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant's Causeway Stepping Stones

WHAT TO PACK FOR A DAY AT GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Be in tune with the weather and dress appropriately: This is an outdoor maritime site. Wind, rain, sun, mist, and water are integral to the experience. The temperatures are often cooler by the coast than inland so pack warm clothing. Be aware that the ground on the cliffside trails is uneven, often muddy, and there are few guardrails. Rocks along the shore are eroded, slippery, and frequently wet so sturdy footwear with good tread is a must. Also, bring along a hat, sunscreen, rain gear, and water.


Pack your camera gear. This is highly Instagram-able setting.

Boulders by the Causeway | Is it worth visiting the Giant's Causeway, UK Travel Guide
Boulders by the Causeway

HOW LONG TO SPEND AT GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

A visit to Giant’s Causeway can be done in a quick 1-hour shuttle bus ride to and from the causeway or in a day long hiking trip along the County Antrim Coast. For a well-rounded trip taking the recommended Red Trail to Blue Trail loop, and visiting the Travel Centre exhibits, plan on a minimum 3-hour visit.

Climbing the Giant's Causeway | Causeway Coastal Route | Giant's Causeway Day Trip
Climbing the Causeway

Hope you enjoyed learning about the legend of Finn McCool, Laura and Randy

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Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean | Giant's Causeway Day Trip, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Overlooking the Atlantic

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