What makes the Giant's Causeway a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Giant's Causeway stones
Published : 12 Apr 2016 Last update : 28 Aug 2020

The Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site status – a title that brings with it recognition of the landmark’s global importance.

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, an agreement to protect heritage sites, can be including on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. However, in order to be listed, the site must meet at least one of the organisation’s strict criteria. The Giant’s Causeway meets two.

Beautiful – and important

The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is not only beautiful, (and therefore of huge aesthetic importance) but the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns are also testament to a major stage in the earth’s development.

When the UK government joined the UNESCO scheme in 1986, they pledged to protect the natural and cultural heritage of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway was the only natural phenomenon granted World Heritage status that year (although the tiny Scottish archipelago of St Kilda was deemed to have mixed – both natural and cultural -- importance.)

Subsequently, a World Heritage Site management plan was put together by local authorities and charities, addressing the conservation requirements of the site and visitors’ needs in terms of access and information.

Since 2005 the UK’s largest conservation charity, the National Trust, has been the sole guardian of sections of the Causeway Coast World Heritage Site, including its crown jewel, the Giant’s Causeway.

The charity works to protect, manage, and ensure the integrity of this phenomenal natural landscape in line with UNESCO’s requirements, safeguarding its status and future.