Located on the very tippy top of Northern Ireland, visiting Giant’s Causeway is on the bucket list of every avid traveller from the UK. I visited the Giant’s Causeway with my mum in March 2016 on a one day tour around the Game of Thrones film locations from Dublin; visiting Giant’s Causeway was tagged on the end.
If you’re heading to Northern Ireland, you really can’t miss visiting this geological marvel. I’ve listed all the info and tips you’ll need on your own trip to the Giant’s Causeway.
Visiting Giant’s Causeway
So, what’s the big deal about visiting Giant’s Causeway?
The Legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill
Now, you might already know there are two stories behind the Giant’s Causeway. One that is most likely and dull, and another that is least likely and less dull.
The story goes that local giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn built the causeway across the channel so the two could meet. There are a few differing endings. The first is that Fionn beats Benandonner. The second is that Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises how much bigger the Scottish giant is than him.
In the third, Fionn’s wife Oonagh disguises Fionn as her baby. So, when Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, only imagining how big his father is, he runs back to Scotland destroying the causeway behind him.
There are similar rock formations on the Scottish Isle of Staffa in Fingal’s Cave, so that’s good enough evidence for the third version for me!
The Real Story of the Giant’s Causeway
In real life, the Giant’s Causeway is made up of basalt columns. I won’t bore you with too many details but around 50 million years ago, a stream of hot molten basalt oozed over chalk rock and when it cooled it created deep cracks in the rock.
I guess that’s why it’s notable. Sure, there are tonnes of examples of volcanic activity cooling and changing the environment (probably) but not many mixing basalt and chalk rock in this way. Or maybe there is, I don’t know. I really wouldn’t pay too much attention to any geological facts from me.
All I know is the geological formations at the Giant’s Causeway are rare and look cool. And that’s why it’s such a popular tourist attraction!
How to get there from Belfast or Dublin
Most tourists will either be visiting Giant’s Causeway from Belfast or Dublin on an organised day tour for convenience and ease. However, an Ireland and Northern Ireland road trip would be an amazing way to see Giant’s Causeway and more. And locals or tourists on a budget might like to know about the bus service.
Top tip: You might need to be patient or walk further along the coast to get away from the hoards of tourists crowding your photos. I tried to get creative snapping photos of my mum off to the side of the columns or focusing on one small patch of the Causeway.
By golly, there are so many tours to pick from. It’s really popular for tourists staying in Dublin or Belfast to slot in a one-day tour to see more of the Irish/Northern Irish countryside. There’s Paddy Wagon Tours or Finn McCool Tours, but check out Viator for a selection of tours from Dublin to choose from.
Joining a tour from Belfast is probably the best option since the city is closer and you’ll be able to fit in other Northern Ireland activities like the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and maybe even the Game of Thrones filming locations. Check out Viator for a selection of tours from Belfast to choose from.
I’m pleasantly surprised that bus services run to the Giant’s Causeway! No matter where you’re staying in Northern Ireland, it’s likely you need to make your way to Coleraine Bus centre which looks like a nearby bus terminal. The 402 bus service is the most frequent service to and from Giant’s Causeway The Nook (name of the nearest bus station) and it rides back and forth from the Coleraine bus centre.
There is a direct service from Belfast which is the 221, but it seems to run less frequently. Check out the bus timetable here for more information and to plan your journey.
This is probably the second most common way of visiting Giant’s Causeway. Truthfully, these days I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t own a Sat Nav, so you can use the postcode BT57 8SU.
I think parking used to be free at the Giant’s Causeway. However, those wanting to use the car park automatically have to pay a visitor’s centre entrance fee for everyone in the car. I think it’s to deter visitors travelling via private transport. But you’ve got to admit, it’s a weird system.
Other parking recommendations are to use the Park and Ride service by parking at the nearby Bushmills village to avoid these costs.
Ticket Information and Opening times
Giant’s Causeway has one of the most ambiguous opening times. It’s literally open ‘from dawn until dusk.’ So, it depends on the time of year as to the opening times. I imagine sunrise or sunset would be a pretty nice time to visit!
I think if you don’t park at the Giant’s Causeway, and you don’t want to use the visitor’s centre, it’s free. But if you want to park on the site you have to pay for the visitor’s centre entrance. I know, it seems a bit weird and I’ve found lots of angry people complaining about it on TripAdvisor because the website is ambiguous about this too.
And if you didn’t travel by car but need to use the toilet? You need to pay to get into the visitor’s centre. Want to eat at the café? You need to pay for entrance. I hate to throw judgement, but it’s an odd way of doing things.
As for price, adult tickets for the visitor’s centre are £11.50 with child and family tickets available. Alas, no other concessions! I do realise how much money is needed to preserve important scientific land that tourists must be slowly ruining. But again, weird system.
Top tip: If you are visiting the Giant’s Causeway by public transport or by bike, you can get a discount on your visitor’s centre ticket! I’m not sure how, but maybe keep your bus ticket handy.
As I mentioned, there is a visitor’s centre at the site that houses an exhibition all about the Giant’s Causeway. It might be interesting if you’re visiting Giant’s Causeway with kids. The centre also has a coffee shop, audio guides and gift shop.
Also, it’s a little bit of a walk down to the actual Giant’s Causeway from the visitor’s centre. It’s not long or strenuous in the slightest, but if you or your pals have difficulty walking you can pay for a shuttle bus down to the site.
If you are up for a bigger walk, you can continue walking along the cliff-top path to get a bird’s eye view of the Giant’s Causeway. In fact, check out these six must-see sights along the Giant’s Causeway coast because you might not be aware of one or two!
Have you thought about visiting Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland? Let me know in the comments below!