by Sarah Matz
Four miles northeast of Bushmills, I’m standing at the edge of a basalt column cliff looking into the northeastern sea of Northern Ireland. The wind is blowing more than 50 miles per hour. My skin stings as the gales spit a combination of freezing ocean spray and rain in my face, and I’m chilled to the bone. To my left is Iceland. To my right are the Scottish Isles. I am standing at the edge of Giant’s Causeway.
The cliffs are shaped like hexagonal interlocked columns that step down from the coast like stairs and disappear into the sea.
There is great debate among scientists, visitors, and residents alike about how the columns—more than 40,000 of them—were formed some 50 to 60 million years ago.
Many argue that this area was subject to intense volcanic activity. As lava cooled and contracted, it fractured leaving pillar-like horizontal structures.
Others, however, claim that Irish giant, Finn McCool built the causeway to use as stepping stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet.It's also rumored that he once scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a foe, but missed and it landed in the Irish Sea, forming the Isle of Man, Rockall, and Lough Neagh.
Whatever the reason, Giant’s Causeway today is the fourth greatest wonder of the United Kingdom and a major tourist attraction of Northern Ireland.
As I stood at the edge of the northern Irish isle, I couldn’t help but feel privileged to witness the beauty of nature and Celtic legend at their very best. So I took a deep breath of the fresh ocean air, pulled the drawstrings of my hood a wee bit tighter and pushed past the wind and back up the hill.