The Giant's Causeway celebrates 30 years of its UNESCO status
This year the Giant’s Causeway celebrates 30 years of its United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 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 conversation 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.
The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is home to a wealth of local history and legend. Visitors can explore the basalt stone columns left by volcanic activity 60 million years ago and search for distinctive stone formations fancifully named the Camel, Harp and Organ.
Work was completed on restoring the headland and building new world class visitor facilities in summer 2012 at a total project cost of £18.5 million. This included a £3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £9.25 million in funding from DETI, £6.125 million of which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, and a £4 million contribution from National Trust.
Since its opening the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre has been applauded for its brave and innovative design which seeks inspiration from the causeway's prehistoric past. The building was nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize and has been awarded the Skal and BREEM Awards, both of which recognise success in sustainability in design.