One autumn morning on the Giant’s Causeway

A deserted beach made of massive basalt columns disappearing into the sea: the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was my favourite picture in a folder named “Ireland” in my old desktop. Many, many years ago, I was completely in love with Ireland. A genuine teenage obsession with the emerald isle and its music, traditions, history. Out of all of the beautiful landscape images that filled that “Ireland” folder, the Giant’s Causeway one was by far my favourite. I dreamed about going there one day.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.
This is what I dreamed of as a teenager

When I was living in Poland I had started planning a trip to make that dream come true. There were even direct flights to Belfast! I had looked up all the details to reach the Causeway coast from the Northern Irish capital (travel planning is a form of entertainment for me). Unfortunately, I never ended up going, and I don’t really know why. I guess that the direct Krakow-Belfast flight made it feel like an easy trip, something I could do any weekend. So I always chose to employ my paid leave days visiting more remote destinations, like the Lofoten islands in northern Norway, or the Lesser Caucasus in Georgia. Those, despite still being in Europe, were less easy to reach than Belfast and the Causeway. So I just never travelled there until recently.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.

The giant pencils

What obviously fascinated me the most about the Giant’s Causeway is its peculiar geology. The whole coast is made of basalt columns that formed after a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Similar columns can be admired also in other parts of the world. Earlier this year I had the chance to see these rock formations in Iceland, at Svartifoss and Reynisfjara. I had renamed them the giant pencils. I couldn’t wait to see their Irish relatives.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.
Pencil-perfect

The most famous photos of the Giant’s Causeway face towards the sea, just like most of those I took myself. This peculiar rock formation is not only found there. The whole coast is loaded with basalt columns. Giant pencils everywhere!

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning. Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.

Photographing the Giant’s Causeway

From a photographic point of view I had not been lucky with the Icelandic basalt columns. I got to Reynisfjara in the middle of the afternoon when hordes of people were all over the place – literally on the columns, climbing them. I had planned my itinerary prioritizing other destinations and unfortunately Reynisfjara happened to be a stop along the road. Expecting a famous landmark to be completely void of people in this time and age is kind of naive, I take it. Still, I always assume everybody is like me and has the same expectations to see monuments with no people on them so they will nicely stay down and photograph. Of course not.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.
Me *on* the basalt columns. At 8 in the morning I was not ruining anybody’s picture

With the Giant’s Causeway I chose not to make the same mistake and give myself the possibility to visit at a quieter time of the day. So I booked my stay in the area at Finn McCool Giant’s Causeway hostel. As the description on the property’s website reads, the hostel is “the closest building to the Causeway that is not part of the Causeway”. The perfect location for a morning exploration of the place.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.
An early morning shot of the Causeway.

Wet basalt has a beautiful shiny black colour. Most of the lower columns had been washed by the night tide and were gleaming black in the low light of the morning. This is what we saw as soon as we got there. It was still dawning, so the light was pretty low. As the darkness lifted and the clouds made room for the sunlight in the sky, we could see the distinctive difference in colour between the wet and dry parts of the Causeway.

Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.Visiting the Giant's Causeway one autumn morning.

Visiting the Giant’s Causeway

The Causeway is accessible for free for visitors who reach it on foot. Being lodged at the hostel we were able to leave our car there and simply walk to the coast. This allowed us to visit the Causeway before the visitor centre’s opening hours, beating the crowds. We woke up as soon as the sun rose (you can check the time on this website) and made our way there. There was nobody around, the Giant’s Causeway was all for ourselves. Alternatively, visitors can access the Causeway through the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre. Paying an individual fee, one gains access to on-site parking, an audioguide and of course the visitor centre’s services to the public. Services I happily gave up in exchange for having the place all to myself.

Many choose to visit the Causeway at sunset. We chose to go in the morning because the day before we had visited the Bushmills whiskey distillery and after that had treated ourselves to a delicious meal in town. When we checked into our hostel the sun had already set. I was finally there, the place of my teenage dreams. It was only a few hundred metres away, yet I had to wait for the morning to finally see it. I was so eager that the morning after felt like Christmas day. And getting to photograph the Causeway with no humans around definitely felt like unwrapping the best present.

Giant's Causeway. A morning walk on Northern Ireland's most famous beach.

44 thoughts on “One autumn morning on the Giant’s Causeway

  1. what an interesting place! I like how the rocks are shaped, they do look like pencils! 😀 And I don’t know why but I was kinda expecting a ‘sad’ ending to the story – that you ended up not liking the place and that your ‘teenage obsession’ wasn’t worth the visit 😀 but I guess you liked it if it felt like unwrapping a present 🙂

    1. Yes I loved it! I was afraid of seeing it filled with people everywhere, but it was not and I really loved it. I know sometimes we dream about something for too long and we end up disappointed by it when we finally get to experience it. I’m glad it was not the case!

  2. OMG it is just so beautiful! I regret not going when I was in Ireland (the first and second time) but I will not make that mistake again! I can’t wait to go back to Ireland just to see this! Beautiful photos!

    1. I really liked reading about your trip, thak you for linking it for me. Northern ireland is such a pearl! Such a gorgeous place with many surprises!

  3. This place looks incredible. I’ve been to Ireland twice, but haven’t made it to Northern Ireland yet. The Giant’s Causeway is at the top of my list!

    1. I hope you’ll make it there one day because it’s really stunning. The Giant’s Causeway is probably the most peculiar feature there, but there’s much more to explore.

  4. Wow I love how deserted the place is! I visited the Giants Causeway in Summer on a day trip from Dublin so it was absolutely crawling with tourists. Unlike anywhere else in the world I’ve ever been though so super glad I went!

  5. As a Brit I’m ashamed to say I’ve still not visited the Giant Pencils 😉 Your photos are stunning, and I love the fact you got up early to beat the crowds, that’s my favourite thing to do to!

    1. After Iceland I couldn’t allow for another peak time to see my favorite attraction. In late September the sun doesn’t rise too early, so it was not too big a sacrifice anyway 😀 Would have done it also much earlier, anyway, it was well worth it!

    1. I was glad I didn’t get any rain when I was there (it started a few hours later so I missed it!) but I can see the charm that location can have with a stormy sea and all the basalt columns black from the water. Must have been quite a sight!

    1. That’s true, and actually GoT filming actually took place in several locations in Northern Ireland – some of them not too far away from the Causeway! But for this one it’s actually Mother Earth who takes credit. Amazing rock formations!

  6. I loved going to Giant’s Causeway. You’re totally right about the crowds of people so good job on heading out early morning. Your photos are beautiful! Mine sadly have tons of people in them 😉

    1. I really didn’t want to make the same mistake I made in Iceland. Taking back good photos was really important to me, so it was worth the early morning exploration of the place.

  7. Aww, what a lovely end to the story! I’ve had two places on my bucket list since childhood; Spain and Mongolia (so different to each other too lol). Already been to Spain and have plans to visit Mongolia in a few years time. I’d love to visit Giant’s Causeway too, it’s on my Pinterest travel board of places I want to visit 🙂

    1. Mongolia is calling my name, too. Not since childhood, but it’s been a dream destination for a good amount of years already. I also hope to make it there in a few years’ time!

  8. I have wonderful memories of the Giants causeway in Northern Ireland! It was my first time in the country as well and the formation of those rocks is just so beautiful and surprising! Now I’d just want to go back so much to get some more photos! Going to have to get back to the UK soon!

    1. Those rock formations are mesmerizing. I could stare at them for hours marvelling at their amazing shape! This was my first time in Northern Ireland, too- actually my first time in the UK, since a layover in London doesn’t really count 😀

  9. I can’t get enough of these photos! Good job getting there early. Always a good idea!!! This place is high on my list and your post made want to go even more!! I had the same experience at Reynisfara and literally yelled at people who rudely walked into my photos. LOL

    1. I feel you, I was so frustrated while at Reynisfjara. I had never hoped more for rain, it would have made the basalt too slippery and it would have kept everyone nicely down 😀 But nope, no rain. Happy to hear you like my photos. If you’re planning to go there I can’t recommend enough the hostel we stayed at (I linked it in the post). Perfect for a morning exploration!!

  10. This place is so interesting! I’m already in love with Ireland although I haven’t been there yet. I hope I can go there soon, and will definitely include a visit to see the Giant Pencils 🙂

    1. All of Ireland is beautiful, and I mean the island so both countries! We spent a week there and I would have stayed a month. We’ve been able to fit in a lot into our trip but ther was so much more beauty to discover. Can’t wait to go back!

  11. I’ve always wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway, but we unfortunately had no room for it on our last trip to Ireland.
    It’s seems amazing in photos, I can only imagine how cool it is to see such a unique natural spot in person.

    1. hopefully you’ll squeeze it in next time, if you ever go back. On my first time I had not managed either, it had only been a quick 2-day trip to Dublin to see some friends. So now I’m glad I made it there!

  12. These rock formations are so bizarre! I’ve not seen the ones in Iceland, even though I used to live there… You get them in the west of Scotland too – on the Isle of Staffa you get really up close, but on the Isle of Skye you can see it too! The site is called Kilt Rock, because the basalt columns look like a kilt on the cliffs!

    1. Would love to see those in Scotland, too. I think it’s a really pretty natural feature! Scotland is high on my list, after exploring Irish whiskey I want to visit some Scotch distilleries!

    1. Sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you really care about photos. I actually enjoy waking upearly when I travel I’m so excited that I just want to be awake as soon as I can 😀

  13. wow i never knew this place before seeing your blog! such an interesting and photogenic place. i am already imagine-ing myself to take prewed photos there in the future hahahha thankyou for sharing!

  14. It is a beautiful place for photos, both for landscape shots and as background. Glad you got to learn about a beautiful place from my post!

  15. How absolutely stunning! And how lovely to have the place nearly to yourself as well! This is far up on my bucket list, hope I’ll make it there soon! 🙂

  16. I love your photos. I don’t blame you for coming back early. It looks like it paid off for you. We are planning a trip to Ireland soon so I will definitely be saving your post for future reference!

    1. Thank you. I’m always glad to hear when someone likes my photos, as that’s where I put the most effort when I travel. There’s nothing more rewarding than bringing back good photos from a place for me. I am in the process of writing some more about this trip, so you may also want to check out the other posts I wrote (and wil lwrite) about Ireland. It’s always good to get some recommendations/inspiration before going and seeing the places yourself. Hope they’ll help 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

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