The Giant’s Causeway And The Legend Of Finn McCool

Giant's Causeway
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Ireland is a land of myths and legends, and nowhere more so than the mysterious Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. 40,000 tall basalt columns, formed in perfect interlocking hexagonals. Surely this couldn’t be the work of nature, there must be some other explanation? So runs the legend of Finn McCool: only a giant would have both the strength and the artistry to pick up the stones and pack them so tightly together.

The Tale Of Finn McCool

Finn McCool (also known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill) was a fabled giant of Irish mythology, and the leader of the Fianna, a fierce band of hunters and warriors. He was the greatest warrior Ireland had ever known, and his feats were legendary. Many tales of his exploits are told, but one in particular relates to the Giant’s Causeway.

One day a Scottish giant dared to challenge the supremacy of Finn McCool. This led to the two of them hurling insults at one another across the narrow strip of sea separating the two countries. Finn became enraged and started to throw great lumps of earth across the sea (one of which fell and created the Isle of Man). Finding some columns of basalt, he formed them into hexagons and decided to build a causeway to Scotland and confront his enemy in person.

The Giant's Causeway stretches into the sea
The Giant’s Causeway stretches out towards Scotland

However, he looked up from his work and saw his adversary wading through the water towards him. He ran back to his home in alarm and slammed the door shut. But his wife, the practical one of the family, simply put a bonnet upon the great warrior’s head and ushered him into a gigantic cot, smoothing a woollen blanket over him just as the Scottish giant arrived.

“Where is Finn?,” puffed the giant. “He is gone from home,” said the wife calmly. “I am here on my own, minding the baby.” The ogre peered into the cot and his colour changed. “If that is the size of the baby,” he thought. “How big must the father be?” Muttering his apologies, he backed out of the door and raced back to his castle in Scotland, never to be heard of again.

Stacks of giant basalt rocks, perhaps the work of the giant Finn McCool
The closely packed hexagonal columns seem to be the work of humans and not nature

So Finn remained the undisputed warrior champ of Ireland and the Causeway was never completed.

A Scientific Explanation For The Giant’s Causeway

Of course, the scientists will spoil it all by telling you that the Causeway is a completely natural formation. The columns resulted from a volcanic eruption sixty million years ago. The newly formed rock was of a crystalline structure and, as crystals naturally form into hexagons, the rocks were also hexagonal.

In fact, the geological significance of the Giant’s Causeway is such that it is now both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national nature reserve. However, looking out to sea at rocks that seem to be perfectly sculpted by a human hand, people will always continue to believe that it was the work of Finn McCool.

Visiting The Giant’s Causeway

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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