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Giant's Causeway - Unique Places in Europe

Giant’s Causeway is a zone of interlocked columns of basalt in Antrim County in Northern Ireland.

A jewel in the crown among UK’s top tourism sites, Giant’s Causeway was recently voted as Best UK Heritage attraction of 2017 putting it ahead of rivaling names such as Mount Everest and the Giant Redwoods of California. The famous Giant’s Causeway is a zone of interlocked columns of basalt in Antrim County in Northern Ireland. The unusual rock formation resulted from intense volcanic activity dating 50 to 60 million years during the Paleocene era. Its name arises from a common myth among the Irish that the causeway was built by Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill who was challenged by Benandonner from Scotland. Well, the story has as many versions, some including Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, but it stands that the two giants tussled, forming the 40,000 basalt columns.

Description

The discovery of the Giant’s Causeway dates back in 1692 by Bishop of Derry. Worldwide publicity of the causeway came the following year after a paper by Bulkeley of the Trinity College, Dublin. A better means to publicize the causeway was affected by artist Susanna who made watercolor paintings and presented them to the Royal Dublin Society. The first visitor’s center got burnt down in 2000, and the center waited another 12 years to have it replaced. Notable among the causeway’s features is the Giant’s Boot structures which appear like a gigantic boot. Other features on the site include the numerous reddish low columns called the Giant's Eyes, which were created by displacing of the basalt boulders, as well as the Giant’s Harp, the Honeycomb, the Chimney, the Shepherd’s Steps, the Camel’s Hump, and the Giant's Gate.

Threats

As of 2008, the National Trust warned that the Giant’s Causeway could face a global warming threat. Specifically, the heritage site is threatened by rising water levels which cause coastal erosion. A concurrent report by Queen’s University reported that by 2080 the site could face serious severe erosion. The erosion is a major threat to its treasured habitat, mostly the small animals that depend on its coastal resources. The erosion will also cause a reduction in the food resources of the birds. Other climatic changes that might worsen the erosion include warmer annual temperatures and drier summers.

Habitat

Giant’s Causeways host some of the world’s rarest species of birds, plants, and mammals. Examples of plants include sea fescue, sea spleenwort, vernal squill, frog orchid, and the hare's foot trefoil. Birds found in the area include seabirds such as petrel, shag, redshank, fulmar, guillemot, and the razorbill. Notable among its inhabitants include the stromatolite colony that was discovered at the site in 2011. It is rare to find the species surviving in waters that are less saline and less warm as is characteristic to waters at the neighboring ocean.

Uniqueness

The unique feature in the causeway is the massive columns of ballast that interlock beautifully like the cells of a honeycomb. This is the icing on the cake for many who visit the site. Viewing the tourist attraction site from the coastal end has that perfect blend of the ocean breeze and beautiful scenery in sight. Prominent colors range from grey to black with a green carpet of mosses on some patches.

Tourism

Tourism hit a surge after the causeway made it to the top of the British Travel Awards in 2017. Lonely Planet has proposed that the Causeway’s coast, alongside Belfast, will be the top regions to visit in 2018. This will see an increase in the number of visitors, being a National Trust and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Those who love visiting the site will agree that the three iconic rock outcrops are a feature are the most interesting. The biggest of them is the Grand Causeway, towering magnificently above the rest.

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