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The Giant's Causeway is a UNESCO Heritage site located in Northern Ireland. During the Paleogene period, County Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity. As lava rapidly cooled, unique contraction and fracturing occurred, creating the distinctive hexagonal columns seen today. Irish legend of course has an alternate tale of the Causeway's creation!: The Irish giant Fionn MacCumhaill (Fionn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him and pretended that the sleeping giant was actually their baby son. When Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn, and therefore only the Irish coastal steps remain.
Bushmills is the gateway to the Giant's Causeway, a unique rock formation formed 55 million years ago by cooling lava flows, although according to local legend the symmetrical columns were part of a bridge to Scotland built and then destroyed by the famous Irish giant, Finn McCool. Similar rock formations can be found on the Scottish coast. The Causeway visible today is all that remains of the bridge. If visiting the Causeway be sure to take the cliff walk route so that you descend to the water's edge and approach the Causeway itself from the east. The views across to Scotland and west along the coast to the mountains of Donegal are magnificient. Bushmills is also famous as the home of the world's oldest whiskey distillery. The license to produce the famous malt whiskey was granted by King James I in 1608. Visitors can take a one hour guided tour which includes a tasting. Just west of Bushmills, the ruins of Dunluce Castle dramatically straddle sheer cliffs that plunge hundreds of feet into the sea. And of course you cannot leave County Antrim without testing your nerves on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which can be found just 6 miles east of Bushmills near the village of Ballintoy.
CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE
Spanning a chasm some eighty feet deep is the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, it's construction once consisted of a single rope hand rail and widely spaced slats which the fishermen would traverse across with salmon caught off the island to which it leads. The single handrail was subsequently replaced by a two hand railed bridge, and the current, caged bridge was installed by the National Trust during Easter of 2000 as a further safety measure. Although no-one has ever been injured falling off the old or new bridge, there have been many instances of visitors being unable to face the return walk back across the bridge, resulting in them being taken off the island by boat, so not an activity for the faint-hearted!
GLENS OF ANTRIM
The Glens of Antrim (there are 9) are beautifully unique and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Within twenty square miles you can enjoy natural landscape that covers glacial valleys, sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, tundra plateau, boglands, wooded decidious glens, coniferous forests, waterfalls and picturesque villages! Antrim's coast, from the busy port of Larne to the resorts of Portrush and Portstewart, is dotted with beaches and rocky inlets. Ancient sites and places of intrigue abound too. In addition to wonderful scenery, the landscape is dominated by spectacular ruins of fortresses built by Gaelic chieftains and Norman invaders. Ireland's first inhabitants, nomadic boatmen from Scotland, are believed to have landed in this area around 7000 BC.
Dunluce Castle is sited dramatically close to the edge of a headland, along the North Antrim coast. One could spend hours marvelling at such a wondrous feat of construction 500 years ago! Surrounded by jaw dropping coastal scenery, this medieval castle stands where an early Irish fort was once built, and its history can be traced back to early Christians and Vikings. The Castle has a rich and varied history, connected with such famous names as Richard de Burgh, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and Sir John Perrott. Dunluce Village which once surrounded the castle was destroyed by fire during the siege of 1641, but some archaelogical remnants of walls remain. Also nearby are the ancient church ruins of St. Cuthbert's, and the site was witness to the sinking of the colony ship the Exmouth, bound for Quebec, which broke up on rocks off Islay with 240 deaths in 1847. The site features a visitor centre, shop and guided tours of the ruins, gardens and remnants of the town.
This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Two centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. And all this before George R.R. Martin had even the earliest inkling of his wonderful Song of Ice & Fire series! Since then the iconic avenue has been used as a filming location in HBO's epic Game of Thrones - representing the King's Road in the show - and global notoriety has of course ensued!