- Take in Ireland's most celebrated coastline on one of three trails, including the family-friendly Green Trail.
- Watch for wildlife: spot the grazing cattle in 'The Bay of Cows' and enjoy the marvellous wildflower meadows.
- Count as many of the 40,000 interlocking, hexagonal basalt columns as possible.
- Learn the myths and legends of the Giant's Causeway, and the role that the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was imagined to have played.
The iconic Giant's Causeway has fuelled the imagination and legend of the North County Antrim area for centuries, inspiring and informing both folklore and science. Situated on Northern Ireland's north coast, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and is now managed by the National Trust.
The Giant's Causeway is an area comprising approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which lead like stepping stones away from the cliff's foot to disappear into the sea. They formed as the result of an ancient volcanic eruption around 50 to 60 million years ago. The cooling of the lava flow resulted in the unique hexagonal shape of most of the stones (although some have as many as eight sides - see if you can spot them). It is a uniquely beautiful effect that is both scientifically significant and a fabulous feature of the Irish landscape.
Legend goes that the Giant's Causeway was built by the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) after he was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. The two giants met in the middle of the Irish Channel, and in one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner; in another, he hides when he discovers how large his enemy really is. Perhaps get your kids to (safely) stage their own battle and trace Fionn's path.
There are three trails for your family to follow, but the Green Trail is the most family-friendly. Take in magical views of Runkerry Head, and keep your eyes peeled for Humphrey the Camel, a rock formation that looks uncannily like the humped animals. Otherwise, the Red Trail is a bracing clifftop walk, or follow the most popular route of the Blue Trail. Don't forget to look out for famous structures, including the Giant's Boot and Wishing Chair.
Your family can also take the Giant's Causeway Clifftop Experience tour for a stunning five mile hike and to learn more about the history and geology of the Causeway. Note that a good level of physical fitness is required for this hike, and kids must be over 12.
You can walk the Causeway Coast without a ticket from the National Trust, but you cannot park on site. A ticket from the National Trust enables you to benefit from the full Giant's Causeway Visitor Experience, which includes guided tours, use of audio guides available in 11 languages, access to the exhibition space, shop, café, and parking.
If your family are planning to explore Belfast, don't forget to check out the Titanic Belfast for insight into the famous ship and its doomed voyage, or perhaps enjoy the breath-taking beauty of Kingsgate Bay.
What to know before you go
- The Visitor Centre at the Giant's Causeway is now open in full, but you need to book advance tickets by 3pm of the day before your planned visit. National Trust members can book for free, but non-members need to pay; tickets are released every Friday. You'll need to follow ground markings and maintain social distancing, and the number of people in the Visitor Centre will be limited. There will be hand sanitizer available throughout, and you'll need to wear a face-covering in enclosed areas unless you are exempt or for kids under the age of 11. Contactless payment is preferred, but cash will be accepted in both Euros and Sterling GBP. Note that the Translink easy access bus service to the stones is not currently operating.
- The coastline and North Antrim coast path are open from dawn to dusk, but the Visitor Centre is open from 9am - 4pm daily.
- National Trust members can both visit and park for free, but remember to pre-book online and to bring your membership card. Non-members must book parking in advance through the online booking system.
- There's a limited menu of drinks and snacks available in the Giant's Causeway Grab & Go Café, including cold drinks, teas, coffees, and light refreshments. Otherwise, the Bushmills Inn is about a five minute drive from the Giant's Causeway, or you can get fantastic toasties from Maegden food van in Bushmills.
- Full toilet facilities - which include accessible toilets and baby changing facilities - are available during the opening hours of the Visitor Centre.
- The Visitor Centre is fully accessible, with a Changing Place facility. The 'Green Trail' of the Giant's Causeway is wheelchair and buggy accessible: visitors can view the Causeway on this trail from the Runkerry Head.
- Dogs on leads are allowed in indoor and outdoor areas.
- If your family are particularly active and love hiking, perhaps consider walking to the Giant's Causeway along the breathtaking 33-mile Causeway Coast Way, of which the trails of the Giant's Causeway form a part.
- If walking seems a stretch too far, Route 93 of the National Cycle Network runs around the coast from Newry to Ballycastle via Bangor and Belfast. If you travel via bike, you'll also get a 'green discount' on admissions at the Visitor Centre.
- Regular train services also operate from both Belfast and Londonderry to Coleraine. Change onto bus connection Ulsterbus Service 172 from Coleraine to get to the Causeway.
- Other buses you can take to the Giant's Causeway include Ulsterbus Service 172, Goldline Service 221, Causeway Rambler Service 402, Open Top Causeway Coast Service 177, and Antrim Coaster Service 252.
- If you're planning to drive, the Giant's Causeway and Visitor Centre are located on the B147 Causeway road, about 11 miles from Coleraine and 13 miles from Ballycastle. It is an estimated hour and a half's drive from Belfast. There's parking available onsite, but this must be booked in advance.