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    Irish Folklore, Myth & Legend: Finn McCool & Giant’s Causeway

    By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
    More by Dawn

    Myths and legends surrounding the Giant's Causeway

    Once upon a time, there was a mythological Irish giant called Finn McCool who got himself into a spot of trouble with a high-tempered Scottish giant called Benandonner, who had made a claim for Finn’s island of Ireland.

    Enraged at Bennandonnar’s claim to Ireland, the giant Finn McCool starts angrily throwing boulders into the sea off the Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland. Inspired by the way they fell into the water, Finn decided to use his boulders to make a bridge or a causeway – a Giant’s Causeway – all the way to Scotland’s Isle of Staffa. Using his causeway to Scotland, he could challenge his rival to a proper duel over the fate of Ireland.

    Giants Causeway

    Finn’s Giants Causeway stretches out towards the horizon and Scotland’s Isle of Staffa.

    In a mythical world where size dictates winners and losers, Finn realises he has underestimated his enemy – Benandonner is a giant, even for a giant! Brute force won’t work on him – so Finn quickly returns to Ireland via his Giant Causeway and decides the best way to beat Benandonner is to con him.

    Leaving the Giant’s Causeway for Benandonner to find, Finn McCool’s wife disguises him as a baby. When his rival arrives, he finds Finn’s wife Sadhbh (pronounced “Siive”) tending her enormous baby giant. Realising that Finn’s child was this big, Finn himself must be huge.


    Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa

    Welcome to Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa. Look familiar?

    The Scottish giant Benandonnar hurries away, retreating back to Scotland with his tail between his legs. As he hurries home, he frantically tears away bits of the causeway, severing all ties between Scotland and Ireland to prevent Finn McCool from following him as he retreats to the Fingal’s Cave on the Isla of Staffa.

    Incidentally, Fingal’s Cave shares a similar geology and appearance to the Giant’s Causeway! (Read about Fingal’s Cave on our sister company Wilderness Scotland’s website).

    He is determined to leave Ireland and stay away from the giant Finn McCool, who regains undisputed control over Ireland once more.

    Thus, the myth of the Giant’s Causeway was born.

    Beyond the Myth

    Hiking on the Giant's Causeway - Ireland Giant's Causeway myth

    Hiking along the mythic Giant’s Causeway in search of Finn

    It’s a nice story, isn’t it? And clearly, it holds some truth – at least culturally, as the myth of the giant Fionn McCool is mirrored in the name: the Giant’s Causeway.

    But if you’d consider yourself more of a scientist, perhaps you like the alternative (and easier to prove!) scientific version of the birth of the Giant’s Causeway?

    The UNESCO World Heritage site is the result of an ancient volcanic explosion some 60 million years ago. The burning and quick cooling of the volcanic lava left a series of impressive 40,000 interconnected basalt columns hugging the northern Irish coastline forming the Giant’s Causeway, one of Ireland’s most iconic and impressive landscapes, as well as basalt columns of the tiny Scottish Isle of Staffa, remote an uninhabited but for birdlife.

    Whichever story you prefer, well, the Giant’s Causeway is a place that you have to see to truly believe. So what are you waiting for?

    Interested in Irish folklore? Stay tuned...

    This is but one in a series of articles about Ireland’s rich patchwork of folklore, myth and legend.

    Read the rest of the stories and stay tuned – new myths will be added here.

    Learn More

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    Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

    “American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

    View profileMore by Dawn

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