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The Giant s Causeway, Northern Ireland

March 28th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

[Currently only low quality pictures available]

The Giant's Causeway is an area of 40,000 tightly packed basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago1. It is located along the northeast coast of Ireland about 3 km north of the town of Bushmills in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 (by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland). In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The Giant's Causeway is owned and managed by the National Trust.

The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, however there are some with four, five, seven and eight sides.2 The tallest are about 12 metres (36 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.

While recent scientific research suggests the columns were formed as a natural consequence of lava cooling,3 legend has it that the giant Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish equivalent Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Finn McCool fell asleep before he got to Scotland so when Benandonner came looking for him, Finn's wife Oonagh laid a blanket over Finn and pretended he was actually Finn's baby son. Benandonner worried about how big Finn would be and ran back to Scotland, destroying the causeway and leaving a boot behind in his rush. Other versions of the legend name the Scottish Giant 'Fingal'. At the Scottish side of the causeway at Staffa there is reference to this in the naming of Fingal's Cave,4 although this has also been said to derive its name from Fingal, a legendary third-century Scottish king.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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