We passed the Giant’s Causeway after dark, and about eleven o’clock reached the harbor of Port Rush, where, after stumbling up a strange old street in the dark, we found a little inn, and soon forgot the Irish coast and everything else.
In the morning, when we arose, it was raining, with little prospect of fair weather, but having expected nothing better, we set out on foot for the Causeway. The rain, however, soon came down in torrents, and we were obliged to take shelter in a cabin by the roadside. The whole house consisted of one room with bare walls and roof and earthen floor, while a window of three or four panes supplied the light. A fire of peat was burning on the hearth, and their breakast, of potatoes alone, stood on the table. The occupants received us with rude but genuine hospitality, giving us the only seats in the room to sit upon; except a rickety bedstead that stood in one corner and a small table, there was no other furniture in the house. The man appeared rather intelligent, and, altho he complained of the hardness of their lot, had no sympathy with O’Connell or the Repeal movement.
We left this miserable hut as soon as it ceased raining, and, tho there were many cabins along the road, few were better than this. At length, after passing the walls of an old church in the midst of older tombs, we saw the roofless towers of Dunluce Castle on the seashore. It stands on an isolated rock, rising perpendicularly two hundred feet above the sea, and connected with the cliffs of the mainland by a narrow arch.
We left the road near Dunluce and walked along the smooth beach to the cliffs that surround the Causeway. Here we obtained a guide, and descended to one of the caves which can be entered from the shore. Opposite the entrance a bare rock called Sea Gull Isle rises out of the sea like a church-steeple. The roof at first was low, but we shortly came to a branch that opened on the sea, where the arch was forty-six feet in height. The breakers dashed far into the cave, and flocks of sea-birds circled round its mouth. The sound of a gun was like a deafening peal of thunder, crashing from arch to arch till it rolled out of the cavern.
On the top of the hill a splendid hotel is erected for visitors to the Causeway; after passing this we descended to the base of the cliffs, which are here upward of four hundred feet high, and soon began to find in the columnar formation of the rocks indications of our approach. The guide pointed out some columns which appeared to have been melted and run together, from which Sir Humphrey Davy attributed the formation of the Causeway to the action of fire. Near this is the Giant’s Well, a spring of the purest water, the bottom formed by three perfect hexagons and the sides of regular columns. One of us observing that no giant had ever drunk from it, the old man answered. “Perhaps not, but it was made by a giantGod Almighty!”
From the well the Causeway commencesa mass of columns from triangular to octagonal, lying in compact forms and extending into the sea. I was somewhat disappointed at first, having supposed the Causeway to be of great height, but I found the Giant’s Loom, which is the highest part of it, to be but about fifty feet from the water. The singular appearance of the columns and the many strange forms which they assume render it, nevertheless, an object of the greatest interest. Walking out on the rocks, we came to the Ladies’ Chair, the seat, back sides and foot-stool being all regularly formed by the broken columns. The guide said that any lady who would take three drinks from the Giant’s Well, then sit in this chair and think of any gentleman for whom she had a preference, would be married before a twelvemonth. I asked him if it would answer as well for gentlemen, for by a wonderful coincidence we had each drank three times at the well. He said it would, and thought he was confirming his statement.
A cluster of columns about halfway up the cliff is called the Giant’s Organ from its very striking resemblance to that instrument, and a single rock worn by the waves into the shape of a rude seat is his chair. A mile or two farther along the coast two cliffs project from the range, leaving a vast semicircular space between, which from its resemblance to the old Roman theaters was appropriated for that purpose by the giant. Halfway down the crags are two or three pinnacles of rock called the Chimneys, and the stumps of several others can be seen, which, it is said, were shot off by a vessel belonging to the Spanish Armada in mistake for the towers of Dunluce Castle. The vessel was afterward wrecked in the bay below, which has ever since been called Spanish Bay, and in calm weather the wreck may be still seen. Many of the columns of the Causeway have been carried off and sold as pillars for mantels, and tho a notice is put up threatening any one with the rigor of the law, depredations are occasionally made.
Returning, we left the road at Dunluce and took a path which led along the summit of the cliffs. The twilight was gathering and the wind blew with perfect fury, which, combined with the black and stormy sky, gave the coast an air of extreme wildness. All at once, as we followed the winding path, the crags, appeared to open before us, disclosing a yawning chasm down which a large stream falling in an unbroken sheet was lost in the gloom below. Witnessed in a calm day, there may perhaps be nothing striking about it, but coming upon us at once through the gloom of twilight, with the sea thundering below and a scowling sky above, it was absolutely startling.
The path at last wound with many a steep and slippery bend down the almost perpendicular crags to the shore at the foot of a giant isolated rock having a natural arch through it, eighty feet in height. We followed the narrow strip of beach, having the bare crags on one side and a line of foaming breakers on the other. It soon grew dark; a furious storm came up and swept like a hurricane along the shore. I then under-stood what Horne means by “the lengthening javelins of the blast,” for every drop seemed to strike with the force of an arrow, and our clothes were soon pierced in every part.
Then we went up among the sandhills and lost each other in the darkness, when, after stumbling about among the gullies for half an hour shouting for my companions, I found the road and heard my call answered; but it happened to be two Irishmen, who came up and said, “And is it another gentleman ye’re callin’ for? We heard some one cryin,’ and didn’t know but somebody might be kilt.”
Finally, about eleven o’clock, we all arrived at the inn dripping with rain, and before a warm fire concluded the adventures of our day in Ireland.