Review completed at Giant’s Causeway visitor centre

The National Trust opened the new £18.5million Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre less than three months ago. In this short period the World Heritage Site has already welcomed 250,000 visitors from 130 countries, including over 90,000 from Northern Ireland. 

Inside the new Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre. Credit Peter Nash

Upon opening, one small piece of interpretation section evoked a wide and mixed response. As a result, on 18 July the conservation charity committed to undertake a review of this particular section

Having taken on board a wide range of feedback, and commissioned interpretive specialists to develop a suitable reflective piece, the National Trust has now amended the existing exhibit. 

A new piece of audio, approximately 20 seconds in length, replaces the previous recording and makes the Trust’s views completely clear.

Graham Thompson, Project Director for the Giant’s Causeway, said: “This change will help clear up any misunderstanding there may have been. 

“The National Trust only endorses the scientific explanation of the origins of the stones yet recognises that others have alternative beliefs.

“The National Trust is content that this review is complete and thank all for their feedback on the matter.”


The amended transcript can be viewed below within the Debating Characters section. See the previous transcript here.

Column 1 – Stone or Giant Fossil? : Thomas Molyneux & St. George Ashe

Ah, so you’d like to know my opinion on the matter? Thomas Molyneux is the name, State Physician of Ireland my calling.

I made a long study of the Causeway, this wonder of creation, and the first thing to say is that it has nothing to do whatsoever with ancient myths and legends and so forth – superstitious nonsense!

I believe what we have here is simply basalt rock; now hours of study through my lens show no signs of fossils in the stones… whatever others may have to say on the matter… and whoever those others may be – these ridiculous letters aren’t even signed!

Oh, come now, Dr. Molyneux! I do not admit to writing any letters, but I shall freely confess to being St. George Ashe, Bishop of Cloyne, and to believing firmly that the fossils are not in the stones – they are the stones themselves!

The shape of the columns tells me that they are the stems of huge, fossilized sea creatures – mighty relatives of the little Entrochus fossils that the dedicated searcher may sometimes find along the coast.

Preposterous, old friend! One might as well talk of fairies and giants!

Tcha! We’ll see, Dr. Molyneux – we’ll see!

Column 2 – Forged in fire or born in water? : Nicholas Demarest & Abraham Werner

Bonjour! Nicolas Desmarest at your service! And so you are interested in knowing how the great stones were created, n’est-ce pas? Bien! Amateur I may be, but I am still a man of science. And, whatever Abraham Werner says, the Causeway is exactement like the volcanic stones in the Auvergne in France. 

No, no, no, you say volcanic – I say it is…

Thank you, Herr Werner, but you will permit me to finish, s’il vous plaît! Ahem! I have observed this old lava again and again and everywhere in it – voilà! Columns. In the Giant’s Causeway, these same columns are proof of an old volcano. Werner may be a mining expert – but when it comes to geology…

…when it comes to geology, I am Teacher of Mining and Mineralogy at the Freiberg Mining Academy und NOT un amateur! I visited the most famous basaltic hill in Saxony, near Stolpen, in person, and it is not a volcano! More – there is no volcano anywhere near it! Earth’s waters, not its fires, created its rocks!

Bof! Mon dieu. Ignore Herr Werner! I myself have seen ancient lava that has flowed over great distances! You must search far to find its source – so perhaps this area, too, was once flooded with lava and…

Nein, Monsieur Desmarest! Nein, nein, nein!

Mon Dieu, ces Allemands! This is the 18th Century, n’est-ce pas?!?!

Column 3 – An Ancient Earth or a New Creation? : James Hutton and Dr Richardson

Now see here, I am deeply concerned that…oh I do beg your pardon. My name is Richardson – the Reverend Doctor William Richardson. Rector of Clonfeacle.

I am a keen naturalist, so I have every sympathy for open-minded scientific enquiry. But as I say, I am deeply concerned that Mr. Hutton may mislead you with his theories on the age of the Earth.

We know from the Bible that the Earth is 6,000 years old! One has merely to count the generations between Adam and the birth of Our Lord. And for all his eminence as a geologist, and his standing with the Royal Society in Edinburgh, that makes Mr. Hutton’s theory nonsense!

Now, now Dr. Richardson, I am well aware that my theory is challenging…upsetting to many…I myself find it dizzying…yet when I look at the evidence, at the slow and steady volcanic formation of rocks – occurring even as we speak! – I am driven to believe that 6,000 years is a mere blink in the life of the Earth – I see no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end!

Well, I shall return to Antrim once more, Mr. Hutton! I am sure I shall find proof there that all rocks are formed under the sea – and put an end to your theory of an ancient Earth!

Indeed? Well I wish you luck, sir…

Column 4 – Bamboo? : Captain Morton

Ah, good day to you! Morton’s the name – Captain Charles Morton, Royal Navy. So – want to know the real truth as to the origins of the Giant’s Causeway stones, do you?

It seems to me that anybody who’d sailed with me would have a better chance of understanding their origins than these landsmen who sit and read their books.

As for me, well, the logs will show that I served Her Majesty Queen Victoria long enough in the tropics to recognize bamboo when I see it!

The long, narrow stems – the occasional joints on the columns – why, any Jamaica Station hand would know this for bamboo.

Giant bamboo, yes, as befits the age of dinosaurs – but fossilized bamboo it must be and is!

(Chorus of laughs)

Quiet there! Quiet on deck, I say!

Column 5 – A Special Place

Today there is a clear understanding among scientists that the heat of the earth was the driving force behind the formation of the Giant’s Causeway – and that the earth is far older than had previously been thought. James Hutton suggested this back in 1785; modern geologists agree with him.

All the scientific evidence points to a volcanic origin for the columns of the Giant’s Causeway, around 60 million years ago.

However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view.  There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.

The National Trust supports the scientific view of the formation of the Giant’s Causeway.  We are proud to be the guardians of such a special place – one that has played an important role in our understanding of the world around us.

For further information on this exhibit, please speak to a Ranger.



42 thoughts on “Review completed at Giant’s Causeway visitor centre

  1. Pingback: Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation statement | National Trust Press Office

  2. Pingback: Giant’s Causeway visitor centre interpretation | National Trust Press Office

  3. Pingback: National Trust: “However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view…” « Slugger O'Toole

  4. I think you forgot to add that there are some people who believe that the earth is flat. This is a sad and spineless response.

    • This is not the Bible’s teaching on this. It clearly speaks about the earth being a circle or sphere. Isaiah 40:22. Look at for 101 scientific evidences for a young earth. Things you were never told about at school.

      • What the Bible teaches about this is not pertinent. It is a book of myths with is no more relevance than the Mayan creation myth.

      • And for the comprehensive refutation of the 101 Evidences, see RationalWiki.

        The flat earth is described in the Bible in Genesis, Daniel, Revelation and … Isaiah 11:12: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” The Bible is a flat earth book.

      • The Bible’s teaching is immaterial to this issue. Some people hold different beliefs. One of them is that the earth is flat. They deserve to have their belief included with yours.

  5. Still at a loss as to why there is need to placate the YEC with mentioning in the ‘altered’ section that;

    “However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.”

    When these comments are (wrongly!) ascribed to Rev Richardson in the body of the debating characters section, perhaps you can explain why the repetition was required?

    Sorry, but to me this still suggests that NT values the YEC position, without clearly stating why (i believe it was funding wasn’t it?). I refer to many previous complaints. either include all religious viewpoints (not just christian!) that could be found in GB&NI or include none.

    And this took over two months? Dismal.

    My subscription in cancelled.

  6. The Trust chooses to ignore the scientific evidence which shows that when radio-active dating estimates of age are compared with actual known ages of volcanic rocks formed in the last 200 years the RA estimates are seen to be totally erroneous. It also ignores the geological evidence that shows the red soil layer in between layers which is clearly visible from the path fails to show the level of weathering expected if it was many millions of years old. Sadly they have not had the courage to stand against those with an atheistic agenda.

    • I’m an atheist, but that fact is entirely irrelevant to this matter. What is at stake is a well understood bit of geology vs. fairy tales.

      The NT is trying to walk some bizarre politically motivated line instead of honestly educating the public about this marvelous geological site. This site is not the place to be blithering over the fact that some people believe in leprechauns.

    • a quick message to NT. Do you see what you’re encouraging? This is the sort of rubbish that you, through your lack of backbone (or is it financial requirements?) are giving credence to. You had the chance to show that you existed, simply, to look after the heritage of our nation instead you have allowed yourself for whatever reason to be utilised by a few religious groups to forward their agenda. As will happen time and again now.

      Good luck dealing with the fallout of this.

      You must all be very proud.

    • Dr Robert Beckett is choosing to go over old, discredited ground. The geological view is unanimous that the basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway are between 55 and 60 million years old. To keep portraying yourselves as resisting the atheist hordes is dishonest in the extreme. The Young Earth Creationist view is an embarrassment to mainstream Christians.

    • The reason radioactive dating estimates of volcanic rocks is erroneous is easily explainable, as volcanic eruptions release vast quantities of C12 & C13, and thus disrupt the carbon exchange reservoir.

      • @Dzerards I think you are missing the point. The YECs use spurious dating methods to put doubt in the minds of the casual reader and to create confusion. Properly qualified and experienced geologists can date rocks through a variety of methods quite easily.

    • Robert Beckett is totally inaccurate. I am aware of false statements about RA being wrong over rocks formed in the last 200 years. I have checked out the details and found that the authors who made the claims that RA were guilty of misrepresentation. Why does R Beckett reproduce those falsehoods. It is less than honest. Perhaps he can give some examples. What does he mean about the weathering of soil?

  7. In fairness to the National trust, they have got rid of the big lies. The Debate continues section has been renamed “a special place” They no longer talk about “mainstream science” as if the Religious had some science of their own. They have withdrawn the insult with the local population etc.
    Its obviouse to everyone that the National Trust were in Hock somehow to the local creationist lobby, Caleb even talks of being disappointed they reviewed the “AGREED” exhibit, signifying that Caleb did more than lobby. Whats left is still odd, but most people will miss it completely, the Creationists foughtt hard to retain the whole display and they are left with an iffy bit of text, The national trust Have wasted Months and goodness knows what money making a simple adjustment because they sold their integrity. Whilst those apposing the Creationists have won a good victory and have created a group that is wiser and ready to act again. This is a good day. WE WON!

  8. “Often for religious reasons”? Only and entirely for religious reasons, you should say if you wished to be truthful, how many other reasons can you name? But, well, you have acknowledged all the crucial points, thank you for that. Obviously, there was some kind of pressure on the NT to mention Young Earth concept, and I am very glad to see that the ambiguity of the former exhibit has been removed nevertheless.

  9. Why, in the middle of your scientific declaration in Column 5 do you mention the beliefs of a minority of a minority, the young earth creationists (YECs). This could have so easily been put in the Column 3 where it is already introduced ? Memorialising local myths and legends enriches the visitor experience. This would leave the NT scientific declaration unambiguous and unsullied by unscientific beliefs.

    Caleb, ( ) the pressure group who had ‘a fruitful relationship’ with NT NI during the developement of the Giants Causeway exhibits say their ‘previously agreed wording’ /// ‘has not been removed’ and that ‘The National Trust has therefore set a precedent for others to follow’.

    It took 3 months to arrive at this fudge. You must have known that the above interpretation by the Caleb would be an outcome of the compromise to include their text in the scientific statement. It would not be unreasonable for a fair minded observer to conclude you value Caleb’s previous agreement @Column 5 more than you value facts.

    Column 5 is parsimonious in its celebration of this monument to Geology, its almost an apology for the geological narrative. Much more can be done here to memorialise the story line and emphasise the factual data behind the science. A Special Place is an opportunity to eulogise geology, to add to the enjoyment of the site.

    Why not hold a competition for suitable texts?

  10. I am still extremely concerned that this will be seen as a victory by the YEC propaganda machine and will be used to justify other instances of the YEC viewpoint where it doesn’t belong in other National Trust sites and in other places in Northern Ireland. The Caleb Foundation certainly seem to think this is the case. Removal would have completely got rid of any such concerns. What steps are the National Trust taking to ensure this doesn’t happen in any of its other sites? Embarrassment alone isn’t enough.

    Having said that though this is a huge improvement over the old display, doesn’t misrepresent science and points out that the YEC view is religious in nature.

  11. It is a great improvement.

    The only change seems to be to “Column 5”, although I understand that there are questions as to whether Dr. Richardson believed in a biblical young Earth.

    “However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.”

    Can you please name one non-religious reason for believing the earth was formed thousands, rather than billions, of years ago?

  12. Well done to the NT for finally completing its’ review. As expected some religious reference remains but is clearly stated as that, religious. There is no conflation of science and religion in the new wording. The offending parts of the exhibit have been removed, namely; “The debate continues today”, the reference to “young earth creationists”, the lie that the YEC view is particularly widespread in Northern Ireland and the term “mainstream science”. Personally I can live with the small mention of those who have a different view because it is made clear that theirs is often based on theology and not science. Though I am at a loss as to who the group of people who think the earth is 6000 years old but do not base this view on religion are. Anyone know?

  13. Pingback: Creationist Audio Tour Removed From Giant’s Causeway | Holidays – Flights – Cruises

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  16. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons “–
    only some people do so for religious reasons ? Does that mean that there are others who believe it for non-religious reasons? Scientific ones perhaps ? could the NT please supply us with an example ,surely you must have had one in mind when you used the word “often” rather than “exclusively”?

  17. That’s nice. Could you now explain properly the FULL process that put it there in the first place, why your response was so inadequate and why it took THREE MONTHS to perform this simple (if also inadequate) fix?

    There is still absolutely no reason to include Young Earth Creationism at all, and I am very disappointed that it has been retained even in this watered down form.

    Your actions in regard to this have been very poor, and I am afraid I shall have to continue to consider myself unwelcome at your sites until a full apology for the offensive display and even more offensive treatment of those who complained about it is made.

  18. Pingback: National Trust amends controversial creationism exhibit | Secular News Daily

  19. I am extremely disappointed that the National Trust has chose to only represent one particular alternative viewpoint of the origin of the Giants Causway. By stating that there are alternative viewpoints that it may only be thousands of years old it is completely ignoring the beliefs of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Unlike these christian fundamentalists, Pastafarians have clear reason that He touched the the coastline he with his noodly tendrils around 1200 – 12-10 (referred to as ‘Lunchtime’ by some literalist Pastafarians) and left the rock formations as a message to all true believers.

    It is disappointing that the National Trust has chosen to recognise one narrow band of alternative viewpoints and it seems that those who aggressively clamour for their views to be represented have their way, whereas more reasonable and polite viewpoints get ignored. It would appear that the National Trust is not a democratic organisation.

    I do hope others will lobby the National Trust and help them to see reason and amend the working to ‘….thousands or hundreds of years old’.

    Dakey Docket
    Assistant Rector, Townside Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

  20. What evidence do you have that Rev Will Richardson beleived that the earth was 6000 years old. Please can yo refer me to his writings

  21. Pingback: The National Trust amends Giant’s Causeway exhibition | British Humanist Association

  22. Pingback: The National Trust amends Giant’s Causeway exhibition | British Humanist Association

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