Giants Causeway, County Antrim

Giants Causeway
60 Million years ago, volcanic activity left behind an amazing collection of polygonal columns of layered basalt. Today, these seaside rock structures bring visitors to the Bushmills area of County Antrim from all over the world. A Dubliner sketched the rocks back in 1740 and these early drawings have been credited with kick starting the popularity of the site as a tourist attraction. The Giant's Causeway now draws more tourists than any other attraction in Northern Ireland. In 2005, a poll of Radio Times readers named the Giant's Causeway as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

The amphitheatres of stone columns, with their whimsical names such as the 'wishing chair' or the 'pipe organ', are an icon of Northern Ireland. The Giant's Causeway is Ulster's only World Heritage Site. The site is now owned by the National Trust who have established a coastal path from near to the entrance of the Causeway to beyond Dunseverick, near Whitepark Bay. Moyle District Council provide a visitor's centre and car park near the Causeway with a tourist information centre, three souvenir shops and a 90 seat restaurant.

The next bay along the coast, Port na Spaniagh, was the scene of a valuable treasure discovery from a Spanish Armada wreck called La Girona. The galleass was the biggest ship in the Armada but it fell victim to the jagged gulf during a storm on the night of October 26th, 1588. The Girona carried three lots of treasure, her own and also salvage from two other Armada ships previously wrecked on the west coast of Ireland.

During a series of dives led by Robert Stenuit in 1967 and 1968 almost 10,000 objects were brought to shore by a team of Belgian divers. The treasure included 400 gold and 750 silver coins, gold jewellery, pendants, rings and cameos containing inset rubies and pearls, eight solid gold chains, silver forks and spoons, the ship's anchor, cannons and cannon balls. Many of these items are now on permanent display in the Ulster Museum , Belfast . The story of the wreck is narrated on picture-boards at the Causeway.

The Causeway Coast is a haven for wildlife. Even the popularity of the causeway itself hasn't driven away sea birds such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank guillemot and razorbill. The coast's rock formations also give host to a number of rare plants such as the sea spleenwort, vernal squill, sea fescue, hare's foot trefoil and the frog orchid.

More British Natural features?

Other County Antrim Naturals

Lough Neagh
Glens of Antrim
Ballycarry, Rathlin Island
Belfast Hills

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