Some people might think that the Giant’s Causeway is overrated. I’m not one of those people. In my opinion, the Giant’s Causeway is a must when visiting Northern Ireland. Not only is it the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland, it’s also integral to the history of the country.
Scientifically, the 40,000 geometric basalt columns which form the Giant’s Causeway were created about 50 million years ago as a result of complicated volcanic activity. But the legend of the causeway, and where it get’s its name, is from the Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn MacCool in English). In the story, Fionn is a giant who built the causeway to challenge the Scottish giant Benandonner. There are two versions, one in which Fionn defeats Benandonner and the other in which Fionn’s wife disguises him as her baby, causing Benandonner to flee when he assumes that the baby’s dad must be far bigger and stronger than him.
I actually read the myths of Fionn mac Cumhaill as a child, although he wasn’t represented as a giant in those stories. I’m not really certain how or why he became associated with the Giant’s Causeway, but now there are several “artifacts” connected to him, including his boot (a shoe-shaped boulder), the Giant’s Organ (basalt columns on the side of a cliff) and the causeway itself.
The problem with the Giant’s Causeway is the visitor center which opened in 2012 after the previous one burned down in 2000. The current entrance fee for the visitor center is £13.50 ($18) per person. For some reason, you can only park at the visitor center if everyone in the car has a ticket. That means that if a car with four people goes to see the Giant’s Causeway, they’ll have to pay $72 to park there.
However, the Giant’s Causeway is not part of the ticket for the visitor center. That’s because the Giant’s Causeway is free! In 1897, it was decided that access to the causeway would always be free as it was reached by a public road. In other words, you don’t need a ticket to visit the causeway or hike the many trails along the cliffs and beaches. But you do need a ticket to park there.
The best option is to park 300 yards (meters) down the road at the Finn McCool Hostel, or across the street in the farmer’s yard (if it’s open), both of which are £5 ($6.50) per vehicle. You can also grab a hamburger and fries at the Hungry Giant food truck of the hostel (where I’ve worked for the past week!). Or spend the night at the hostel to have more time to roam around the Giant’s Causeway and also visit the nearby Dark Hedges and other Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland.
In answer to the question of whether the Giant’s Causeway is overrated, definitely not! The Giant’s Causeway has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. While there are dozens of other locations around the world with similar rock formations, this one is particularly beautiful with the surrounding cliffs and turquoise waters. I just wouldn’t recommend paying for parking and the visitor center, unless you really want the audio guide. Use that money for more travels instead.