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Meeting The Sunrise From The Hexagonal Stones Of The Giant’s Causeway

Finn McCool’s Bungle – The Giant’s Causeway

According to legend, it’s thanks to a woman that the Giant’s Causeway even exists. You see, ol’ Finn McCool long, long ago got a little feisty and challenged a Scot from across the water to a battle. When Red Man took him up on the challenge he built a bridge across the water and came looking for Finn. Finn took one look at him and realized he’d made a big mistake.

What’s a man to do when he’s bumbled so badly? Ask his wife to help him out, of course, and this is exactly what Finn did. His wife, Oonagh, took care of it by tricking the Scot into thinking that Finn was a huge giant, one not to be messed with, and thankfully the Red Man went home, leaving behind the couple and the columns of stone that we see today.

Giant Causeway Tour
The iconic hexagonal stones of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Meeting The Sunrise From The Hexagonal Stones Of The Giant's Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway bay and a sea of basalt hexagonal columns.

We learned about Finn on our first Giant Causeway tour a few years back while visiting the amazing hexagonal steps on a misty, “soft” Irish day. Even though there were plenty of tourists, we enjoyed climbing around, taking portraits, and hearing the stories. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, that on this recent trip back to Ireland we wanted to go back and do it some more.

We had a couple of reasons to do this. Our first trip only allowed us a couple of hours to learn about the Antrim coast, because the tour also included the Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery, which although a fun day, didn’t give us nearly enough time. So, first, we wanted to check out the new (2012) visitor’s center, but also we wanted to get to the stones when no one else would be around so that we could get some good images.

Sunrise and a Giant's Causeway Tour
Sunrise over the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland

Revisiting the Hexagonal Stones and Columns

We decided to get up early and go at sunrise. To our delight, only two other people were there and it was quite easy for all of us to steer clear and get the photographs with no one in them. We arrived at the site about 4:30, 20 minutes before the official sunrise.

The colors of the sky were beautiful; it was quiet, and we enjoyed the peaceful silence broken only by the small waves gently crashing to shore and an infrequent call from the gulls. We had the 40,000 stones and the morning coast pretty much to ourselves the whole time.

Hexagonal stones line the Antrim Coast - The Giant's Causeway
Beautiful sunrise colors in Northern Ireland at the Giant’s Causeway

After scrambling around the columns of stone, watching the sun rise into the sky, enjoying the birds heading out to sea to fish, and getting plenty of shots, we wandered back to the parking lot and into the hotel for breakfast.

We had to wait around for the visitor’s center to open at 9:00. We were happy we did, because the state-of-the-art informative displays taught us all about the science behind the hexagonal stones. Thousands of years ago, lava was escaping from a vent, and the northern Irish air cooled the basalt too quickly, thus forming the six-sided shapes.

It’s amazing to view these shapes from the top, looking down, and then realize that there are full columns of hexagons, tightly packed together along the coast. No wonder UNESCO inscribed this natural wonder on the world heritage list in 1986.

We also saw a video, and learned about the plants and wildlife that make the Antrim coast home. The visitor’s center utilizes a multi-modal system of delivering information, and it’s amazing how much time we spent among it’s fun and interactive exhibits. Whether you take an official Giant’s Causeway tour like we did the first time, or decide to head up there on your own, make sure you visit the information center and learn all about both the myths and science of this amazing site.

Sunrise and Exploration on our own Giant's Causeway Tour
The beautiful Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland

Practical Information

Getting from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway

There are a number of ways to get to the site. You can either take a bus or train from Belfast to Coleraine. From Coleraine you can then take the number 172 bus that will drop you off at the causeway. This can take about three hours both by bus or train. You can also take one of the many tours set up to get you up the coast, through both the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmill’s as we did on our first trip, or you can rent a car and drive, which is what we would suggest. The Antrim coast is beautiful, and there are so many tiny roads that a car can go on and the bus cannot, so you can really enjoy the stunning views of the countryside.

 Giant’s Causeway Hours and Costs

The Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Center is open from 9:00-7:00 daily, but you can walk the coastline and trails from dawn to dusk. The prices you can see below. To find out more, you can visit the National Trust’s Website.

For someone who is looking to be outdoors, visit the best sights in Northern Ireland, check out this article. We'll visit the UNESCO World Heritage Giant's Causeway, and give you lots of| Northern Ireland | Antrim Coast | where to stay | what to do | guide
Welcome sign for Giant’s Causeway

Where to Stay

There are a couple of hotels within walking and cycling distance of the visitor’s center, but of course the entire Antrim Coast has everything from hostels to B&Bs, budget to luxury.


The Giant’s Causeway is definitely worth a visit, and don’t forget to go to Belfast and learn some history on a Black Taxi tour or learn all the secrets of that famous luxury ship that sank at the Titanic Experience.

Hexagonal Lava Basalt Stones and the Giant's Causeway
Basalt columns stand tall at the Giant’s Causeway

Have you visited the Giant’s Causeway?  Do you have any tips?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Save and share the Giant’s Causeway for later!

Fulfill that wish list and get out to see the sunrise at the Giant's Causeway!
Fulfill that wish list and get out to see the sunrise at the Giant's Causeway!
Fulfill that wish list and get out to see the sunrise at the Giant's Causeway!
Fulfill that wish list and get out to see the sunrise at the Giant's Causeway!

Fulfill that wish list and get out to see the sunrise at the Giant's Causeway!

Marcelle Simone Heller

Friday 25th of August 2017

I'd like to have these 40,000 stones of The Giant’s Causeway to ourselves, too!

Corinne Vail

Friday 25th of August 2017

Marcelle, It was pretty magical!

Ryan Biddulph

Friday 14th of July 2017

Awesome snaps Corinne. That sunrise visit is the best way to go. We've done this in many cherished spots. You beat the tourist throng and also see a place in the best light. Not necessarily from an angle perspective, but from the mysterious, eerie, fascinating-looking hues that unfold on a morning, whether misty or clear.

Corinne Vail

Monday 17th of July 2017

Ryan, Yes, I do believe it's well worth getting up early and visiting. We were happy with the results.

Ruth | Tanama Tales

Wednesday 12th of July 2017

Looks like stopping by here early is the way to go. I have hear it get very crowded. After seeing basaltic columns in Iceland, I completely understand why they are so cool. Also, I life when a beautiful site is accompanied by a informative and educative visitors center.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 12th of July 2017

Ruth, The visitor's centers are getting so much better, so engaging. Yes, go early!

Rhonda Albom

Tuesday 11th of July 2017

The Giant's Causeway is an impressive rock formation. I was in awe of it's size when I visited years ago.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 12th of July 2017

Rhonda, I know! I just loved the whole Antrim coast...gorgeous!