Ariana and I took a train to Portrush – just about as far as you can go north in Ireland without swimming into the ocean. Portrush is a small town just before getting to one of the big tourist sites in Northern Ireland – the Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway is a UNESCO site and one of the most unusual geological formations in the world. Tall tubes of hexagonal shaped rocks emerge from the shoreline – a result of volcanic activity from 50 to 60 million years ago. An identical type of formation exists in Scotland directly to the east in a place called Fingal’s Cave. This gave rise to a myth about an Irish giant and a Scottish giant challenging each other to a fight. The Irish giant builds the causeway to get to his foe only to realize, from a distance, that his enemy is much bigger than expected. The mother of the Irish giant then disguises her son as a baby to escape. However the Scottish giant, seeing the baby, assumes the father must be his opponent and a giant of all giants. Terrified he flees destroying the causeway behind him.
Geology seems boring by comparison to this tale.
We boarded the Irish rail train in Carrickfergus and with only one quick transfer we were on our way by train to Portrush. It is hard to describe how easy this process is. You can buy your ticket from a machine or a ticket agent. You look up at a digital display that tells you what platform your train is leaving on. You get on the train in a comfortable, spacious rail car equipped with a bathroom at one end and you relax and see the countryside zoom by at greater speeds than cars on the highway. Every stop or so a Conductor checks your ticket until they remember your stop and that they already checked your ticket. A cart of food and refreshments comes by or you go to the lounge to purchase a meal or a drink. When you get off at your stop you can usually walk or take a nearby bus to your final destination.
When we got off the train we took a bus over the smooth, mostly treeless landscape of the Irish coast. There was a daylight haze which made the day not too hot or cold We approached the Giant’s Causeway from the west.
Ireland is very green of course but Ireland used to be tree green and grass green. Now there are remarkably few trees which, I guess, makes for being able take panoramic photos of things at a distance. However its good to remember that there used to be vast forests here. Now one can find trees in towns and more are being planted in the countryside but it is still very much a treeless country. Ireland is, in fact, the most treeless place in Europe. Back when Carrickfergus castle was built, Ireland had more forests than grassland but centuries of farm clearing, ship building, and chopping down trees by the English to hunt down the Irish (true) made for fewer trees.
When we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway in the afternoon. Ariana was still not able to walk long distances so she choose an easier path while I hiked about a mile or so down to the GC. On the approach it looked like a pile of rocks – a-not-too-impressive pile of rocks at that.
There were numerous tour buses and tourists on there way down and back from this pile. However as I rounded the hillside I began to notice that there was quite a bit of exposed rock on the other side. Photo on the right – the southside of the GC.
The causeway is a beautiful stretch of unusual rock and fun to climb. My geology teacher from 40 years ago would probably be proud of me for taking this little hike. I mostly enjoyed the ocean views and the fresh air. The tall hexagonal columns of rock were strikingly beautiful but a bit less striking than the brochures.
Here is the official link:http://www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com/