Our next stop is one of the most unique and magical places in the world: Giant’s Causeway. To get there, we took the train from Dublin, stayed in the northern coastal town of Portrush, took a bus to Bushmills and finally a shuttle to the Causeway. By the time we got there, it felt like we had reached the end of the world. It was completely worth it.
Views from our train ride up eastern Ireland. Taking trains through Europe is the best!
We arrived at Portrush just in time for sunset.
Portrush is a very quaint and charming city, especially when you visit outside of tourist season, as Inna and I did.
Interesting sidenote: while our hosts drove us around Portrush, they pointed out sites where attacks during the Troubles occurred. “A car was bombed here, two police officers were shot there…” Crazy.
When we were in Dublin, we stayed in a hostel and ate hostel food to save money. So first thing we did in Portrush: we had authentic Irish meals, an Irish breakfast for me and steak and Guinness pie for Inna. These meals were so good, Irish breakfasts are definitely my favorite breakfasts in the world, right alongside Jewish deli breakfasts in the US.
Every Thursday (which just so happened to be the day we arrived) Portrush locals jam at one of the pubs in the city. It was amazing!
Portrush was another one of the best Airbnbs on our trip. We stayed with an older couple and we were their kids age; they totally went parental on us and now we consider them our adoptive Irish parents. We didn’t get a picture with them but here is a picture of their adorable little (big) dog.
After an amazing night in Portrush, it was off to the Causeway. We took a public bus to get there; it was us and a bunch of school kids. It was awkward, but hilarious.
This isn’t the best picture, but those peaks in the distance are the 700-800 year old Dunluce Castle, as viewed from our bus. The castle, now in ruins, overlooks the Antrim Coast.
The bus left us in Bushmills, the nearest city to the Causeway. Causeway, we’ve almost reached you!
After a shuttle ride and a short hike, we reached the Causeway, the entrance to it at least.
With this picture (a close-up from the picture above it), we get to the legend of Finn MacCool. According to legend, Finn was an Irish giant who lived near Giant’s Causeway. Finn actually built the Causeway to connect Ireland and Scotland so he could transverse the two without getting his feet wet. Unfortunately, this caused a rivalry with the Scottish giant Benandonner, who came over for a fight. However, Finn outsmarted Benandonner and instead of fighting him simply scared him away. While fleeing, Benandonner destroyed the Causeway so Finn could not follow. Today, the little bit of Causeway in Ireland is all that remains.
If you’re wondering how a picture of rocks relates to this legend, it is because one of those rock-looking objects is actually not a rock. It is Finn’s giant pet camel, lying patiently for his master (Finn) to return home.
And here it is, Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is made up approximately 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, which scientists say was the result of ancient volcanic activity. But we of course know that isn’t the case.
Can you imagine, this once extended all the way to Scotland.
Another angle of the Causeway. I’m not sure these pictures are doing this place justice…
Closeups of the columns, all hexagonal, all fitting in perfect harmony. Similar to honeycomb, but in rock form.
Giant’s Causeway is not the only instance where natural hexagonal columns exist, but it is by far the largest and most famous. Other sites actually include two from our US roadtrip (Devil’s Tower and Sheepeater Cliff), another US site in our home state of California (Devil’s Postpile), Fingal’s Cave in Scotland (where Finn MacCool stayed before Benandonner banished him from his island), and more.
WTF Giant’s Causeway. WTF.
I feel like you may be resistant to all this Finn MacCool folklore, so let me show you some more proof of his existence. This picture shows one of Finn’s neighbors, his grandmother actually, outside her home at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, Grandma MacCool liked the bottle too much; she would spent most of her days at nearby Bushmills getting drunk on whiskey, then would visit her grandson and annoy him with her drunken stupor. Finn eventually got tired of this and warned his grandmother if she did it again she’d regret it. She of course didn’t listen and got drunk the very next day, to which Finn responded by chasing Grandma out of his house and all the way back to her home. Grandma almost made it inside, but Finn finally caught her at her doorstep, grabbed her, and turned her to stone. There she remains to this day; you can see her in the above picture, leaning against the stairway that rises up to her house.
The final proof of Finn MacCool’s existence at Giant’s Causeway can be seen in this picture, where what looks like a giant basalt column is actually the chimney to Finn’s house. Causeway visitors used to be able to hike there, but for some reason the trail was sectioned off the day we visited.
On the way to the above viewpoint, Inna and I found this basalt column wall, holding the mountain up, preserving the walkway to Finn’s home.
If you still don’t believe the Finn MacCool legend, let me quickly bombard you with a whole mountain of evidence. I’ve already shown you everything around Finn’s home, and I also mentioned his former home-away-from-home in Scotland, but even more evidence can be found in the remnants of his battles with Benandonner. First, there’s the Isle of Man and Rockall, created when Finn grabbed a chunk of Scotland and threw it at Benandonner but missed, and also Lough Neagh, which was created by the void in the ground where Finn grabbed the land. If this still isn’t enough, there’s also Kitterland, Calf Sound, Port Erin, and Chicken Rock, all created during an epic battle between Finn and Benandonner. In this battle, Calf Sound marks Finn’s footprints, Kitterland marks the area between his footprints, Port Erin marks Benandonner’s footprints, and Chicken Rock is Benandonner’s tooth. You see, Benandonner won this battle and while Finn was retreating, Benandonner plucked out a tooth and threw it at Finn. The tooth hit Finn in the head and then fell into the water, where it became Chicken Rock. Finn would later curse the tooth, which explains why the rock has been such a hazard to sailors throughout history.
Alright, enough Finn MacCool mythology, if you’re not a believer by now then there’s no convincing you. So lets continue exploring!
All this talk of legends and I haven’t even mentioned the coast. Giant’s Causeway is located on Antrim coast, where the Irish Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is gorgeous and, like I said earlier, when you’re here, especially in the morning before it gets crowded, you feel like you’re at the end of the world.
A letter to Finn in the Giant’s Causeway visitor center (Finn dressed up as a baby when he outsmarted Benandonner and scared him away from his homeland). If you don’t believe Finn MacCool is real, lets see you tell it to this six year old!
From Giant’s Causeway we visited the nearby Bushmills Distillery. This distillery, licensed in 1608, is the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. It is also the distillery that Finn’ grandma drank at before Finn turned her into stone.
From Bushmills we walked to nearby Portballintrae, where we rested in a coastal hotel lounge while we waited for our bus back to Portrush. The above pictures are from our walk; Northern Ireland really is a beautiful place.
With that we finished our visit to Northern Ireland. We had a wonderful time here but there’s still so much of this island to see. Up next, we returned to the Republic of Ireland, also known as Ireland, this time to the west coast!