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Walking in the footsteps of Giants

This summer I decided to spend a bit more time exploring my own country. The U.K coastline is made up of a variety of natural features including islands, bays, headlands and peninsulas. For me, Giants Causeway located in Antrim, Northern Ireland is one of our most impressive geographical features and like many, was the main reason I wanted to visit Northern Ireland.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Nature Reserve (NNR) owned and managed by the National Trust is a reminder of how our coastline was once subject to intense volcanic activity.

Around 50 to 60 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled, contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks propagating down as the mass cooled. There are approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns and their size is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from the volcanic eruption cooled. Most of the columns are hexagonal although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides.

But why is it called Giant's Causeway? Well legend has it that the columns are a remains of a causeway built by an Irish giant who went by the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill (that's pronounced Finn MacCool). He was challenged to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner so built the causeway to reach him. There are many different tales to how the story ends, but my favourite is that Fionn's wife Oonagh disguises Fionn as a baby. When Benandonner saw this huge 'baby' he imagined that his father Fionn must be a mega giant and runs back to Scotland destroying the causeway as he ran to prevent Fionn from following him back to Scotland.

I was staying in Belfast for the weekend and was limited on time so booked on to a guided Irish Tour, which was great to see the main sights in one day, but if you have the luxury of your own car and have plenty of time, I would highly recommend staying here for the whole day, there are so many different walks and trails along the coastline to follow which take you away from the crowds. Check out the National Trust website for further information.

Whilst you're in the area, if you have a thrill for heights, make sure you dont miss out on crossing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge!

I was very pleased to find absolutely no rubbish or litter along this beautiful coastline, however I think that's mainly because the area was patrolled by National Trust staff ensuring that people weren't damaging the columns or themselves! Some of the tallest columns are 12 meters high and you would be surprised to see the lengths that some people go to for that perfect selfie.

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