One of the most unusual geological landmarks in the UK is the Giant’s Causeway on the north east coast of Northern Ireland, in County Antrim. Rising out of the ocean, this spectacular display of 40,000 basalt columns form Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The columns differ in height dramatically, with some flat to the shore and others reaching 12 m (39 ft) in height. Most are hexagonal, but others have four, five, seven or eight sides.
It is generally agreed that the Giant’s Causeway was formed around 60 million years ago as the result of a volcanic eruption; however, with all the symmetry and appearance of a man-made structure, it is no surprise that myths have developed over the centuries as to the origin of the rocks.
The Causeway forms part of the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, designated as such because of its important cliff vegetation. This attracts a host of sea birds and the area is of international importance for over-wintering, migrating and breeding birds such as the fulmar, petrel, cormorant and shag.
The Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction.
Visitors to the Causeway can walk and scramble along the rocks, taking in magnificent views of the Irish Sea. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre was opened in July 2012, featuring a shop, services for visitors with sight and hearing difficulties and it allows tourists to learn more about the Causeway. The area is also renowned for its spectacular walking trails along the coast, offering hikes for walkers of all abilities. Not far from the Giant’s Causeway is another famous tourist destination, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which hangs over a 23 m (75.4 ft) deep chasm.