Global Network of National Geoparks

The giant's causeway and causeway coast world heritage site

Published :March 20, 2008
G. Earls
Geological Survey of Northem lreland, Colby House, Stranmillis Court, Belfast, BT9 5BF Northern lreland, UK

Keywords: Nothern lreland, Giants Causeway, interpretaion, management.

The Giant's Causeway is the most visited tourist attraction in Northern lreland with 500,000 visitors expected in 2006. The Causeway is a World Heritage Site and also has several other national and international designations. In 2005 the Department of Enterpries, Trade and Investment announced an international competition to design a new interpretative centre at the Causeway. The event attracted 201 entries and a separate competition provided the scientific and cultural interpretation.

In tandem with this initiative, a new working body, the Giant's Causeway Causeway Coast World Heritage Site Management Group was established. The Management Group comprises the main stakeholders and includes environmental bodies, local and regional government, tourism and heritage bodies, and geoscience organizations.

An initial focus of the Management Group has been to devise and implement an interpretation strategy to ensure that future tourists will have a seamless experience while visiting the Causeway Coast and Glens. To this end, several key themes have been identified. They are; (i) geology, (ii) landscape, (iii) mythology, (iv) ecology and (v) cultural heritage.

Geologically, interpretation will focus on the formation of the Causeway through explanations of vulcanology and ongoing geomorphological processes. The challenge in the landscape strand of the interpretation is to place the Causeway within the wider context and explain to visitors the evolution of the region.

The legend of the lrish giant, Finn McCool, is synonymous with the Causeway and adds a distinctive and romantic flavour to the site. Opportunities exist to develop this theme and compare mythological stories from different World Heritage Sites. The ecological and cultural themes will enhance the visitor experience by describing flora, fauna and anthropological issues such as Girona shipwreck. Conservation and safety are central to all key themes.