The Giant's Causeway

Legend tells [don't you love it when stories start out like that] of an Irish warrior who built a causeway to Scotland.

Photos of Giant's Causeway, Bushmills
This photo of Giant's Causeway is courtesy of TripAdvisor

One version of the legend tells that Fionn (Finn McCool) was challenged by a Scottish giant, Benandonner. Now Benandonner was much much larger than Fionn, so he tried to think of a way out. His wife, Oonagh, came up with an ingenious idea.

When Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him, Oonagh disguised Fionn as a baby and tucked him in a cradle. When Benandonner came, Oonagh told him that Fionn was out woodcutting, but he should be back soon. She showed him 'Fionn's son'.

When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he had no desire to see the father! Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway behind him, so the 'enormous Finn MacCool', would not follow him.

[photo: Sitomon]
Another variation is that Oonagh painted a rock shaped like a steak and gave it to Benandonner, whilst giving the baby (Fionn) a normal steak. When Benandonner saw that the baby was able to eat it so easily, he ran away, tearing up the causeway.

The "causeway" legend corresponds with geological history in as much as there are similar basalt formations (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at the site of Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa in Scotland.

[photo: Ian C Whitworth Photography]
Whenever highly fluid molten basalt lava cools rapidly, contraction occurs and produces columns. The size of the columns depend on how rapidly the lava cools. Horizontal contraction fractures in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks growing downward as the mass cools, leaving pillar-like structures. In actual fact, basalt columns are not unique to Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Devils Tower in Wyoming was formed with basalt columns, clearly seen here
The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.

The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. Also, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read more here


Angie said...

I've read about this. Scotland and Ireland are my dream. I'm hoping for my fiftieth birthday, I can go there. Interested?

Frimmy said...

Oh hell yes! Funny, I have no interest in seeing England and I know there's a lot to see there. Ireland and Scotland are what I want to experience.

Angie said...

We need to start preparing. You've got the scotch down, now I'll have to start acquiring a taste for ale.


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