It’s been three decades since this iconic rock formation was awarded UNESCO status, bringing it global attention. We take a look at the enduring allure of The Giant’s Causeway and what world heritage status has meant to it…

The Giant’s Causeway is the only Heritage site that is recognised by UNESCO in Northern Ireland. It was also awarded the UK’s Best Heritage Attraction at the British Travel Awards in 2015.

The Giant’s Causeway was formed as a result of a volcanic eruption some 60,000 million years ago. It is an area of about 40 000 interlocking basalt columns that create an outstanding, natural beauty. The site has attracted millions of visitors over the centuries. It is also rich in local and natural history.

It has now celebrated 30 years since it gained this status. This recognition has allowed it to become globally recognized.

UNESCO listed since 1986
UNESCO listed since 1986

To be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage, a country must be a signatory to WHC (World Heritage Committee), which legally binds it to offer protection to heritage sites. In addition, for a site to appear on this list, it has to meet one of the UNESCO’s strict criteria. The Giant’s Causeway meets two of them.

Why the Giant’s Causeway is so beautiful and important?

The Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast is an extremely beautiful place because of its 40 000 basalt columns which interlocking, creating a natural, outstanding beauty. The site is valued greatly by both the local community and international visitors, who visit the site in their millions through guided tours with Allen’s Tours. It is also harbours a wealth of local and natural history.

There are a number of tourist attractions around this site, including:

  • Different species of sea birds, including Fulmar, Razorbill, and Petrel. These birds are frequently observed by tourists who come to visit the Causeway.
  • Rare and unusual plant species are also a major attraction to this site. These rare plants can be seen on the cliffs as well as nearby rock formations.
  • The site is also seeped in myth and legend. Some of these legends say the site was curved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool. It is said the giant left behind an ancient home full of folklore. Visitors flock this site to look for clues of the Giants’ existence, including its Boot and Wishing Chair.
  • The magnificence of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre: This centre rises and blends into the landscape; its walls are made of glass and basalt columns, and has a state of the art interior designed by Heneghan –Peng, an award winning architect. In addition, the glass roof offers visitors 360 degree views of the site’s coastline. You can explore interactive spaces, unlock the secrets of this inspirational landscape, and watch Finn McCool on the big screen.
  • The Giant’s Causeway has four stunning trails that cater for every type of visitor, including those who want to try the challenging coastal hikes. In addition, there is also a new accessible cliff top walk for people with disabilities and families. This area is ideal for cliff and country walk as well as picnics. Dogs are also welcome on leads.

The United Kingdom’s government UNESCO in 1986 and made a pledge to help protect the cultural and natural heritage of Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The only national phenomenon to have gained UNESCO’s approval as a Heritage site that year was the Giant’s Causeway. However, St Kilda, a small Scottish archipelago, was also deemed to have a mixture of natural and cultural importance.

Soon after this, local charities and authorities put together a WHS Management team in order to address the site’s conservation requirements as well as visitors’ needs concerning access and information.

Amazing natural beauty (Photo by: Sean MacEntee).

Who responsible for the site’s protection?

The National Trust, UK’S largest conservation charity, was given the sole responsibility to protect the Giant’s Causeway, among other responsibilities, since 2005. The role of the charity is to protect, manage, as well as ensuring the site’s integrity in line with the requirements of UNESCO, thus helping safeguard its future and status.

Marking the World Heritage Day

This day was celebrated on 7.4.2016, which was on a Sunday. The Charity (National Trust) hosted a number of activities at the Causeway to commemorate this day.

These activities included:

  • A guided two-hour walk accompanied by one of the charity’s conservation expert, which also included planting wildflowers.
  • Themed -treasure trail, crafts, as well as World music by Belfast music Ensemble, Los Dramaticos.

According to Eleanor Killough, a senior manager at the Giant’s Causeway National Trust, this UNESCO heritage site is highly valued by international visitors as well as local community. For this reason, the Trust feels privileged for its involvement in its management and conservation efforts.

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