Ireland is a land of myths and legends, and nowhere more so than the mysterious Giant’s Causeway. 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.

Giant's Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway stretches out towards Scotland

Finn McCool, Ireland’s Greatest Warrior

Finn McCool was a fabled giant of the prehistoric era. His feats were legendary: he was the greatest warrior Ireland had ever known. But one day his supremacy was challenged by a Scottish giant and the two of them hurled insults at one another across the narrow strip of sea separating the two countries.

Finn was enraged and started to throw great lumps of earth across the sea (creating the Isle of Man in the process). Finding some columns of basalt, he formed them into hexagons and set out to build a causeway to Scotland. He looked up from his work and saw his adversary wading through the water towards him and ran back to his home in alarm.

Giant's Causeway
The closely packed hexagonal columns seem to be the work of humans and not nature

His wife, the practical one of the family, put a bonnet upon Finn’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.

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.

But, looking out to sea at rocks that seem to be perfectly sculpted by a human hand, people will always continue to believe that the Giant’s Causeway was the work of Finn McCool.

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