The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site (Causeway WHS) is one of only three natural WHSs in the British Isles and is inscribed under UNESCO criteria vii and viii as a site with “superlative natural phenomena, formations or features, areas of exceptional natural beauty or exceptional combinations of natural and cultural elements”, and as “an outstanding example representing a major stage of the earth’s evolutionary history”.
The geological and geomorphological landscape of the WHS is the primary reason for the global significance of the site and forms the framework for all of the other values. The geology of the site comprises an internationally unparalleled display of geological formations, representing local volcanic activity during the Tertiary some 50-60 million years ago. The most famous feature of all is the Grand Causeway of polygonal basalt columns.
The Causeway WHS is also a spectacular and complex coastal landscape. The 2003 UNESCO/IUCN evaluation mission to examine the condition of the site and report on its management highlighted its importance as a ‘dynamic geological site with ongoing geological processes and coastal erosion phenomena, which have to be managed as such’. Thus, whilst the Causeway Stones themselves are considered to be the most spectacular feature of the coast, the magnificent cliffs to the east of the Causeway Stones also clearly demonstrate the geological succession of the Tertiary Period in cross-sections of outstanding clarity. They also exemplify a wide range of active and dormant mass movement (landslide) features that are important scientifically in their own right, are instrumental in the creation of the visually dramatic landscape and maintain the biodiversity of many cliffs and slopes.
The Causeway WHS is a ‘dynamic geological site with ongoing geological processes and coastal erosion phenomena, which have to be managed as such’.
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