A small leap over to the Emerald Isle was on the cards for last weeks Easter holiday adventure. Ireland is somewhere I have never been before, despite having family origins there and it only being a short distance from England, somehow I had never managed to get over there, which is crazy when you think about everywhere else I’ve visited. It’s actually only 322 miles as the crow flies from Belfast to where I live.
So I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to fly to Belfast, there was a dual purpose to my trip… not only did I want to visit my friend from camp in a country I had never been to before but I also needed to get my visa to work over in the USA again this summer. So Belfast it was!
I was there for three days and in those days I crammed lots in, the main trip being up to the Giants Causeway. This is the adventure I want to tell you about in this post, it attracts millions of visitors each year and it is a truly stunning place. Whilst it’s one of those natural wonders you should see in your life time that also means everyone else is trying to tick it off their bucket lists and that’s when it becomes super touristy and expensive…. I am someone who likes to save and also pay when it’s worth it but for me £10.50 per person to go visit the Giants Causeway (there were three of us) was a little too steep for my budget. So in this post I will go through my adventure there and how to do it without spending a penny whilst getting the same experience as those paying for it. I will also talk about myths and legends behind it and briefly touch on the science for those interested.
Maybe I should begin with one of the myths behind the Giants Causeway, this is the story I was told by a local…
“The Irish giant is having trouble with the Scottish giant, he is threatening Ireland. Enraged, the Irish giant grabs chunks of the coast and throws them into the sea. The rock forms a path for the Irish giant to cross over to Scotland on. But on arrival he finds out that the Scottish giant is terrifyingly massive. The Irish giant runs home, his wife disguises him as a baby because the Scottish giant has followed him. The angry Scottish giant saw the baby and decided if the child was that big, the daddy must be really huge and runs back to Scotland destroying the path behind him.”
Do you believe the myth or are you more into the geology behind it?
Here is a simplified explanation for the science behind how it was formed:
It was formed around 60 million years ago when volcanic activity caused tectonic plates to stretch and break, causing magma to spew up from inside the earth and spill out onto the surface as lava. Lava will begin to cool as soon as it hits the earths surface, it begins cooling at a rapid rate and slows down over time. Once the initial surface layer has cooled it insulates the hot lava inside and whilst the temperature is falling the lava dries out and it is this that causes it to crack and form regular pillars.
You can read more into the science behind it here.
So now we know the myth and the science behind it, how to we go and see it?
Well there is two ways…
1. You can pay £10.50 per person to park you car, go through the visitor center and walk down to the Causeway.
2. Do what I did and see the same thing for free AND still park your car!
I do respect the National Trust and usually I would happily pay their entrance fees to visit somewhere to make sure they have the funding to maintain it and keep it open for everyone. BUT… £10.50 per person when there is quite a few of you for only a one hour or less stop, for me that is a little ridiculous. I don’t know about you but I am a student and also constantly saving to go on trips like this so every penny counts for me!
What you need to do is this…
Drive up to where the visitors center is, but don’t drive into their car park, carry on driving down the country lane (behind you is the railway station) past the pub and a couple of houses and you’ll see a big silver gate on the left, like a farm gate. Just past there, there is a lay by kind of thing (well it’s an area where cars have pulled off the road a little and parked up for free). It is barely 100 meters from the visitors center. Park there.
So now you’re at this silver gate, you should be able to see a foot path sign halfway up the dirt track in front of you and might even spot a few people walking across the top. Head up that track and join the main foot path, turn right. You will now be walking on the red route down to the causeway with all the people who paid £10.50 to go through the visitors center to join the footpath… I know crazy right!
Before driving up the coast I had done a bit of research into Giant Causeway hiking routes and someone had suggested starting on the red route and then finishing by going up the blue route. I would agree! The red route consists of 162 steps (photo further up) and is a steep downhill climb, whilst the blue route is a leisurely walk up a small slope to the visitors center. It’s a stunning view from the top of the red route and if you walk to the edge (but not too close) you can see the giants causeway beneath you.
If you’ve visited recently I’d love to hear your stories and myths behind the natural wonder! Or if you want to discuss the entrance costs to places such as this let me know, I’d love to hear from you!