Legend has it that a giant named Finn McCool was fighting with a Scottish giant, Benandonner, across the North Channel who was threatening Ireland. Out of anger, Finn grabbed chunks of land from the coast and threw them. As a result, a rock path formed for Finn to cross the water and take on Benandonner.
But there was a big problem with this… Benandonner was much larger than Finn. Once Finn realized this, he turned around to go back home. Finn fell asleep and Benandonner came looking for him. When his wife heard him coming, she thought quickly and dressed Finn up like a baby with a nightgown and bonnet. The enraged Benandonner took one look at how large that baby was and immediately retreated and destroyed the causeway behind him so Finn couldn’t follow. He knew the father must be massive if his baby was that big!
Do you believe the legend of Giant’s Causeway? Visiting yourself is the only way to decide!
If you’re not renting a car in Northern Ireland, the best way to see Giant’s Causeway is on a guided tour. I even prefer the tour in this case, because we got a lot of background information along the journey that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. For the perfect Giant’s Causeway day trip I booked the Giant’s Causeway Full Day Tour from Belfast and would highly recommend doing the same.
About an hour drive from Belfast, you’ll reach the Dark Hedges, one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. You might recognize this avenue of ancient beech trees as Kingsroad from Game of Thrones. This is the road that Arya Stark used to escape from King’s Landing.
Though the locals aren’t such big fans of the popular series due to the influx of large crowds of tourists, Game of Thrones actually employs more people in Northern Ireland than the government does. The road still is an active street, so be respectful when locals do need to drive through and step aside to allow them to pass.
Said to be the inspiration for The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Dunluce Castle, or rather the ruins of the castle, sit atop the coastal cliffs in County Antrim. Dunluce Castle was built by the MacQuillan family around 1500. According to legend, one night during a bad storm in 1639, the family was having dinner and was waiting on the servants who never came. Upon heading down to the kitchen, the family discovered it was gone — the entire kitchen broke off and fell into the sea.
If you book the Giant’s Causeway Full Day Tour from Belfast, Dunluce Castle is just a quick stop from afar. You’ll have time to depart the bus and snap some photos, then you’ll be on your way to the next destination.
The scientific explanation for the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway is due to a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. Their hexagonal shape makes them look like they’ve been carved by man because they are such an odd natural phenomena. Each stone you step on will take you back to the legends of the past.
From the visitor’s center, you can either take the shuttle for a small fee, or walk the half mile to the causeway. Make sure to wear shoes that have a good grip because some of the rocks can be slippery. You’ll have an hour and a half to explore this area and also eat lunch. I recommend packing your lunch and finding a good spot on the rocks to eat so you’ll have more time to spend there enjoying this unique piece of nature. There are also a few restaurant options back near the visitor’s center if you prefer eating elsewhere, or forgot to pack your lunch.
This island of Carrick-a-Rede is a beautiful, tiny island that was primarily used for fishing hundreds of years ago and is now famous for its rope bridge. This 60-foot long rope bridge swings 100 feet above the sea and takes you to the island of Carrick-a-Rede. It was originally erected in 1755 so fisherman could check on their salmon nets, but today it is used by tourists.
The walk on the bridge itself definitely takes some guts if you have any kind of fear of heights at all. But it’s also a lot shorter than I imagined. The cost is included with your ticket if you book the Giant’s Causeway Full Day Tour from Belfast. If you go on your own, you actually only need to pay if you’re walking across the bridge. So if heights aren’t your thing or you just don’t want to spend the money, it’s still worth the beautiful views along the walk to the bridge.
On a clear day, you can glimpse views of Rathlin Island and Scotland after crossing the bridge. If not from Carrick-a-Rede, you’ll catch views of Ratlin Island along the drive to Cushendun. The island was previously fought over between Ireland and Scotland, and comes with an interesting history. To figure out who it truly belongs to the people went to a judge in the 1600s, who told them to go to the island and see if there were any snakes there. Scotland attempted to place their own snakes there so they could get the island, but all the snakes died. St. Patrick abolished all the snakes in Ireland, so when they went to the island and found no snakes they knew it was Ireland’s. This made Ratlin Island the first Irish island to be inhabited (presumably), and it’s the northernmost part of the country.
The last stop of the day is Cushendun, a small coastal village only about 15 miles across the North Channel from Scotland. It was a common harbor for travelers between Ireland and Scotland. The Caves of Cushendun are a popular attraction for Game of Thrones fans, who may recognize the cave from season two when the red priestess gives birth to the shadow creature.
Where to Stay in Belfast
When you visit Belfast, it’s a great place to stay close to the city center because you can find so many affordable options with tons to do within walking distance. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre, which I would absolutely recommend. There’s a bar and restaurant downstairs alongside cozy fireplaces when you need to warm up after a chilly day on the town.
Ready to take your own Giant’s Causeway day trip on your Northern Ireland journey? Book the Giant’s Causeway Full Day Tour from Belfast and experience it for yourself! Their rates are a steal for the full day trip they provide along the beautiful Irish coast.
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