The Giant’s Causeway and Finn MacCool

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The magnificent and unique rock formations that make up the Giant’s Causeway are so spectacular they are regarded as the jewel of the Antrim Coastline.

UNESCO named it an Official World Heritage Site and many consider it to be among Europe’s greatest natural wonders. 

The Northern Irish landmark is absolutely deserving of this status and is vouched for by the millions of visitors who flock there every year.

The Giant's Causeway
Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

How was the Giant’s Causeway formed?

There are two versions surrounding its existence. The first one is told by scientists, the second by the old people who have passed it down from generation to generation for many years. Here we’ll look at both stories.

Waves on The Giant's Causeway
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The Giant’s Causeway according to scientists.

The official scientific explanation is that volcanic activity formed the 40,000 perfectly neat polygonal shaped pillars.

About 60 million years ago, during the Paleocene era, the Antrim plateau was bubbling with lava. 

When this basalt lava emerged from the chalk bed, it began to cool, contract and fracture in a similar way to drying mud. 

As the mass cooled, the cracks began to deepen, forming pillar-like structures. The size of the pillars depended on how quickly they cooled.

The Giant's Causeway
Photo by Sean Kuriyan on Unsplash

The Giant’s Causeway according to mythology

Folklore however tells a very different version, that of the legend of Finn McCool. There are few children in Ireland who have not heard this bedtime story. 

Who was Finn MacCool?

The legend tells of the famous mythological giant Finn Mac Cool, also known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill from the fenian cycle of Gaelic mythology. 

He is responsible for numerous formations in Ireland including the Cloughmore Stone in Rostrevor, Co Down, but he is most famous for building the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast.

The Scottish Giant’s challenge

Finn Mac Cool was the biggest and strongest giant in Ireland. The infamous Scottish giant Benandonner, believed he was stronger than any giant in Ireland and wanted to prove it, so he challenged Finn to a fight.

Although Finn had never seen Benandonner, he had heard of his great strength and height and accepted the challenge to defeat him.

The Giant's Causeway
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Building the causeway

Finn decided to build a path to Scotland in order to reach his opponent. He did this by tearing up chunks of land and hurling them out to sea to form a causeway strong enough to hold his weight.

Word got back to Benendonner that Finn had accepted his challenge and was on his way. The Scottish giant likewise decided to build his own causeway to reach him more quickly from Scotland.

Finn caught sight of Benandonner in the distance and realised that his foe wasn’t as big as he had thought. Instead, he was enormous and much much, much larger than him. He got a fright, immediately retreated and ran home to his wife Oonagh who came up with a clever plan. 

Sun glistening in pool of water on The Giant's Causeway
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Oonagh’s cunning plan

She quickly sewed together some baby clothes, put them on her husband and told him to get inside a giant cradle they kept by the fireside.

The next morning Benandoner came knocking on the door looking for Finn and his long awaited duel to determine who was the stronger giant. 

Oonagh answered the door and told him that her husband was out and she was home alone with their baby son.

When the Scottish giant saw the sheer size of the baby it scared the life out of him. He thought if this is the baby then his father, the giant Finn McCool must be absolutely colossal!!

Benandonner’s retreat

The life scared out of him, he fled back to Scotland, destroying the causeway on his way to make sure that Finn would never follow him.

This story is a nice reminder of how using brains over brawn can sometimes help resolve potential conflicts. Thank you Oonagh 🙂

View of the sea from the Giant's Causeway
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

The truth behind Causeway, Fact or Folklore?

After reading both stories, I’ll leave it up to you to choose which version to believe. One thing is for sure, to get the true experience, feel the magic and get the real truth you should visit the Giant’s Causeway for yourself.

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2 thoughts on “The Giant’s Causeway and Finn MacCool

  1. […] King. He is also responsible for numerous impressive landmarks around Ireland, most notably the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim […]

  2. […] in the northeast, County Antrim boasts the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Legend has it that this stunning natural formation was built by the […]

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