UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes
UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

From the World Heritage inscription:

In the 1940s the Twyfelfontein land was granted on licence to a settler. At that time a few Damara people lived close to the spring in 32 huts. The land was transferred to communal use for Damara farmers in 1964 on the recommendation of the Odendaal Commission. But no farmers came forward to make use of it and it lay abandoned for 20 years. Following Namibian independence in 1990, the land became State Land under the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.

Before the 1940s, there is little evidence for the use of the area by the Damara; it is likely that as nomadic pastoralists, they used the area on a seasonal basis congregating near the spring after rains. However nomadic pastoralism had been almost completely destroyed in the preceding 100 years by the Rinderpest epidemic of 1897 and by ensuing government policies which encouraged people to leave the land.

Interviews with local residents in 2004 failed to collect oral evidence for living cultural association with the rock art, although the rock art sites were seen as powerful places and the rock art the work of ‘ancestors’. The imagery of the art suggests it is part of the belief system of hunter-gathers, the San, who lived in the area until partly displaced by Damara herders about 1,000 years ago and finally displaced by European colonists within the last 150 years. No San now live in the area, although the beliefs of present-day San who live some 800km away in the north-eastern part of Namibia, give insight into the meaning of the rock paintings and engravings at Twyfelfontein.

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein is one of the more popular destinations in Namibia, but it not necessarily easy to get to. It is approximately a 4 hour drive from Swakopmund and 6 hours from Windhoek, most of which is on gravel road. While it is theoretically possible to visit Twyfelfontein on a day trip, it probably is best to plan an evening in the Damaraland region. The easiest way to visit would be to go with a tour company who can take care of transportation and lodging.

The site itself can be visited in 1-2 hours, most of which will be walking in the hot sun. Given the dry nature of the region, the rock engravings have been preserved rather well. It is not a large site but does require some light walking on rocks.

An interesting note, the local name of Twyfelfontein is /Ui-//aes. The / and // characters reflect clicking sounds in the Damara language. Damara is unique in that it has FOUR different clicking sounds, as opposed to the one click you get in languages such as Swahili.

Overview

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Namibia. It was inscribed in 2007 and is home to over 2,000 figures of rock art carvings. According to experts, these rock carvings have been dated back to 2,000 years before 1000 AD.

This archaeological site is one of the most important of its kind in Africa, not just in Namibia. Aside from the fact that it has survived for many years (and in almost intact conditions), it is also a good evidence that provides a glimpse into the way of life during the era when these carvings were created. The figures in the rock art at Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes depict hunter-gatherers, as well as their rituals. For this reason, it was accepted into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Namibia. It is the second UNESCO site from the country after Namib Sand Sea was inscribed in 2003.

About Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes is a site consisting of a massive collection of rock art and rock engravings in the Kunene Region of Namibia. The site is made up of a spring in a valley that is located right in the heart of two sandstone table mountain slopes. Hence, the location of the rock art receives little rainfall and has diurnal temperature. Many archaeological experts believe this was crucial in the preservation of the rock art on the UNESCO site.

The history of inhabitation at the site of the Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes is believed to have been around 6,000 years. The site was initially inhabited by hunter-gatherers. After they abandoned the site, the Khoikhoi herders settled here. Both of these ethnic groups spent a long time inhabiting the area wherein they performed several rituals and turned it into their place of worship.

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

These early settlers mostly performed shaman rituals. As part of these rituals, they also carved out figures in the rocks that are in the area. This is why experts considered the rock art of high cultural value because they not only provide a glimpse into the way of life (such as how people of the ancient times gathered food and survived), but also in their religious beliefs and ritualistic practices.

The Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes was recognized by UNESCO when it was nominated primarily due to the sheer volume of the rock art carvings. There are over 2,500 items of rock art that were found in the area. The site is therefore the largest collection of rock petroglyphs in the African continent.

There are 14 smaller sites that comprise the Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes. These different sites are used to identify the individual areas that consists of their own collection of rock art carvings. These sites are as follows:

North of the Place of Ceremonies: This site consists of 65 engravings with 2 large giraffes among the most prominent figures used.

Place of Ceremonies: There are over 175 engravings on this site with mostly caves consisting of rock paintings.

The Seven Slabs: There are about 150-175 engravings with 2 superimpositioned engravings. Some of the most prominent subjects depict 4-toed human foot print and that of a child-parent grouping.

The Seven Slabs Outlier: This rock art carving features 2 giraffes in excellent condition with rough work and jackal.

Hare Rock Block: This site consists of 40 paintings and 30 paintings. There are also about 18 depictions of human subjects.

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein Main Site Complex: This component of the UNESCO site Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes features geometric imagery. This is the site of the red pigment rock paintings.

The Boulder Field: This component of Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes is home to about 120 rock engravings.

The Large Living Area: This section of the UNESCO site consists of 50 rock engravings, 43 rock paintings, and geometric images.

The Southern Living Area: This site consists of 250 rock engravings and more than 40 geometric images.

The Right Valley Side: This site is composed of 75 rock engravings built on 15 rock slabs. The most popular craving on the Lion’s Slab.

The Left Valley Side: When you visit this site, there are 150 rock engravings on 30 slabs. There are geometric imagery that are found on the site.

The Western Hill Slope: This site consists of several pecked animal engravings known as Carsten’s Slab.

Bottom of the Western Hill: This site is made up of 10 rock blocks with 120 engravings.

At the Large Paint Block: This is composed of 20 engravings and 25 paintings that are placed on an overhang structure. This is considered as the best-preserved painting in the valley.

At the Large Paint Block Outlier: This part of the UNESCO site Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes consists of an engraved cluster of cupules and spoor.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Namibia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Namib Sand Sea

UNESCO World Heritage Site #261: the Namib Sand Sea
My 261st UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Namib Sand Sea

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Namib Sand Sea lies along the arid African coast of the South Atlantic lying wholly within Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft Park. It covers an area of 3,077,700 hectares, with an additional 899,500 hectares designated as a buffer zone.

The Namib Sand Sea is a unique coastal fog desert encompassing a diverse array of large, shifting dunes. It is an outstanding example of the scenic, geomorphological, ecological and evolutionary consequences of wind-driven processes interacting with geology and biology. The sand sea includes most known types of dunes together with associated landforms such as inselbergs, pediplains, and playas, formed through aeolian depositional processes. It is a place of outstanding natural beauty where atmospheric conditions provide exceptional visibility of landscape features by day and the dazzling southern hemisphere sky at night.

Life in the fog-bathed coastal dunes of the Namib Sand Sea is characterised by very rare behavioural, morphological and physiological adaptations that have evolved throughout its specialist communities. The large number of endemic plants and animals are globally-important examples of evolution and the resilience of life in extreme environments.

Namib Sand Sea

There are some world heritage sites that you can visit in under and hour and see everything there is to see. There are others which take days to explore properly. The Namib Desert is one of the later.

Prior to a conference I was attending in Namibia, I explored the desert for 5 days with a group in 4×4 vehicles. We went up, down, over and across dunes. We camped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sand and stars. I even drove down a dune that was over 100m (300ft) tall that terminated at coast of the Atlantic!

I’ve been to many deserts around the world, but nothing quite compares with the size and scale of the dunes in Namibia. If and when I get around to creating my own personal list of the wonders of the world, I think the dunes of the Namib desert will be on it.

Visiting the Namib is best done from the cities of Walvis Bay or Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast. From either city there are trips available which will take you into the dunes as well as sightseeing flights which will take you over the desert. I did both and I can highly recommend doing both as each gives you a different view of the desert.

Overview

Namib Sand Sea

Namib Sand Sea is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Namibia. It was inscribed in 2013 for its amazing natural desert landscape. This site is recognized for its natural beauty consisting of coastal fog desert. Meanwhile, there are two dune systems that are found in Namib Sand Sea. There are also colored dune fields that make up this World Heritage Site. Most of the sand that make up this desert are carried and have been deposited from far away land.

Perhaps the most unique feature about Namib Sand Sea is that it rolls right up to the ocean. The desert sand and waves of the ocean meet.

About Namib Sand Sea

Namib Sand Sea

Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world. It is also the oldest desert in the world. The dune fields span about 3 million hectares in land area. There are two dune systems that form this particular desert landscape: one has been around since ancient times and the other is young and was recently formed.

It is located on the South Atlantic coast of Namibia in Africa. This vast area made of spectacular sand dunes was not always like this way. In fact, the sand that forms the dunes now originated several kilometers away from its current location. Specifically, they came from the major rivers of southern Africa. The river flow into the ocean and the natural process of erosion are responsible for transporting the sand into the dune fields that form Namib Sand Sea. Once the sand is transported by strong ocean currents and made its way into the shore, the offshore ad onshore winds would blow them and create various formations.

Namib Sand Sea

Namib Sand Sea is one of the largest world heritage sites in Africa. It is also located within the Namib-Naukluft Park. Hence, this site is highly remote with limited access. In fact, there are only few roads that lead to this area.

The Namib is an extremely dry desert. However, it supports a vast array of plants and animal species. These species have evolved with special adaptations that have allowed them to survive a hostile environment. Among the endemic wildlife that thrives in this environment include the Dune Lark, Welwitschia plant, and a few reptiles and invertebrates.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Namibia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #260: Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

UNESCO World Heritage Site #260: Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church
UNESCO World Heritage Site #260: Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

From the World Heritage inscription:

Canterbury, in Kent, has been the seat of the spiritual head of the Church of England for almost five centuries. St Martin’s Church, St Augustine’s Abbey and the cathedral are directly and tangibly associated with the history of the introduction of Christianity to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The influence of the Benedictine abbey of St Augustine was decisive throughout the high Middle Ages in England. The influence of this monastic centre and its scriptorium extended far beyond the boundaries of Kent and Northumbria. Christ Church Cathedral, especially the east sections, is a unique artistic creation. The beauty of its architecture is enhanced by a set of exceptional stained glass windows which constitute the richest collection in the United Kingdom.

Within the urban perimeter of Canterbury, three distinct cultural properties are on the World Heritage List: the modest St Martin’s Church; the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey; and the superb Christ Church Cathedral, a breathtaking mixture of Romanesque and Perpendicular Gothic, where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. These three monuments are milestones in the religious history of the regions of Great Britain before the Reformation.

St Martin’s Church, to the east, located outside the walls of Roman Durovernum, existed in 597 when the monk Augustine was sent from Rome by Gregory the Great to bring Christianity to the Saxon kingdom of Kent. The church was built for the most part before the 8th century. It undoubtedly includes a Roman structure from the 4th century. Of the church located within the city walls, which St Augustine made his cathedral (probably at the very spot where Christ Church now stands) nothing has been conserved. However, ruins of the abbey are still visible, halfway between St Martin’s Church and the cathedral. The abbey was dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul. In 978 the primitive institution, veritable cradle of Benedictine monasticism in England, was restored following the Scandinavian invasions. The abbey buildings virtually disappeared in their entirety following the dissolution of the Community by Henry VIII in 1538. The Royal Palace that stood in their place was located against the northern side aisle of the nave. It included the gutter wall and a few old portions, but this structure, too, has disappeared.

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

I’m guessing that most people in the western world have at least heard of Canterbury Cathedral. It was the subject of one of the most well known works of middle english: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was the site of the assassination of Thomas Beckett, who was later sainted. It was the location where St. Augustine established the first cathedral in England and it was also a key location in the English Reformation.

I had been to London probably a dozen times and never bothered to take the hour long train trip to Canterbury. I finally got around to visiting, and I am glad I did. Not only is the cathedral worth visiting for its history and architecture, but the town of Canterbury itself is one of the nicest towns in England which I’ve visited. Despite how well known the cathedral is, I never got the impression that the town was touristy.

There are regular trains which run to Canterbury from Paddington and Victoria Stations in London. The trip is approximately 60-90 minutes.

Overview

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

The Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United Kingdom. It is a Christian religious structure consisting of several historical monuments. Located in Canterbury, Kent, this World Heritage Site was inscribed in 1988.

All of these monuments serve as the perfect representation of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. These monuments and religious structures are located within the seat of the spiritual head of the Church of England.

About Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s ChurchThe Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church is a collective site consisting of three of the most important religious monuments in Canterbury, England. Each of the sites represents a different type of significance. Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at each monument.

Canterbury Cathedral

The Canterbury Cathedral, also known as Christ Church Cathedral, was founded by Augustine. It was founded in the early 7th century. But when Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed here, it has been known as a popular pilgrimage site. In fact, thousands of pilgrims flock here on an annual basis. It is now known as the cathedral for the Archbishop of Canterbury. In addition to its historical significance, the cathedral is regarded for its architectural beauty and stained glass windows.

It is also one of the most popular monuments in the World Heritage Site Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church.

St. Augustine’s Abbey

Saint Augustine’s Abbey was founded by Benedictine monk Saint Augustine in 598. This abbey had major influence during the High Middle Ages in England. For many centuries, this abbey underwent several rebuilding process. However, it fell into a state of disrepair during the 16th century. Today, only ruins are left of this abbey after Henry VIII dissolved all Catholic monasteries in England.

St. Martin’s Church

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church

This is the final component of the UNESCO site Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church. This is the oldest parish church in England that is still in use today. During the 6th century, it served as the private chapel of Queen Bertha. This was prior to the arrival of Augustine in Rome.

All of these three monuments represented the history of Christianity in England in tangible form. The architecture was also a symbol of how the Christian religion coincided with the development ofAnglo-Saxon. Hence, these buildings were mostly constructed using Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles.

 


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in United Kingdom.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

UNESCO World Heritage Site #259: Blaenavon Industrial Landscape
UNESCO World Heritage Site #259: Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Blaenavon landscape constitutes an exceptional illustration in material form of the social and economic structure of 19th-century industry. The area around the Blaenavon ironworks provides an extraordinarily comprehensive picture of the South Wales coal and iron industry in its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was one of the world’s largest iron and steel producers. All the necessary elements can be seen in situ : coal and ore mines, quarries, a primitive railway system, furnaces, the homes of the workers, and the social infrastructure of their community.

From at least 1675, iron ore was extracted on the mountains of Blaenavon. However, the area was virtually unsettled and used only for small-scale iron mining and grazing. In 1788 Thomas Hill, Thomas Hopkins, and Benjamin Pratt built a major new ironworks at Blaenavon, putting into practice the latest technology and organization of the Industrial Revolution in a new and resource-rich setting. By 1789 the ironworks consisted of three blast furnaces using steam power, making it one of the largest in the world.

In 1817 adit mining for iron ore and coal developed on a larger scale, replacing surface scouring, and shaft mines were introduced, with sophisticated drainage, haulage, and ventilation arrangements. Population grew rapidly through the migration of workers from rural areas of Wales, from the industrial Midlands, Ireland, Scotland and rural England. Blaenavon parish, which had been minuscule before the ironworks was built, had grown to 11,452 in 1891. The social development of the area created a thriving urban culture. A rapidly created industrial landscape grew up of iron-ore patches, coal mines, limestone quarries, iron forges, brick works, tram roads, watercourses and workers’ houses, all controlled by the Blaenavon Company, which was reorganized as a joint stock company in 1836.

During the 1840s and 1850s the scattered housing of the workers and the works’ school, church and chapels were complemented by the evolution, on land outside the company’s ownership, of a town with a variety of urban functions. There were three principal clusters of buildings in the area, one around the Ironworks, one along the east-west axis, now King Street, and one around St Peter’s Church.

Relative decline in steelmaking from around the turn of the century permitted the growth of coal production for export. Steel production ceased in 1938, and Big Pit, the last substantial working colliery, closed in 1980. Big Pit is now a museum of coal mining of international significance, and one of only two mining museums in the United Kingdom where visitors can be taken underground. The conservation of Blaenavon Ironworks has contributed to economic regeneration. The town and the surrounding landscape have survived little altered to represent the story of their past.

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

One of my favorite type of world heritage sites to visit are industrial sites. Sites which preserve and commemorate advancement in industry from the 18th-20th centuries. One of the most important industrial heritage sites in the world is at Blaenavon.

In the 19th Century, southern Wales was the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution. Here you had the two building blocks of early industry: coal and iron.

Within the town on Blaenavon are two preserved facilities: The Blaenavon Ironworks and the Big Pit National Coal Museum.

The Ironworks started business in 1789 and is the world’s best preserved 18th century ironworks. (The ironworks are seen in the photo at the top of the page.) The ironworks are also famous for being the first place where the Bessemer process was used to make steel. It was discovered by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas in Blaenavon and was the foundation for global steel production through the 1960’s.

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is just a short trip up the road from the ironworks. It was a working coal mine through the 1980’s and is one of the most popular museums in the UK. In addition to the surface buildings you can also take a tour underground and it is one of the only places in the UK which does underground tours.

However, the scope of the world heritage site goes beyond the industrial sites in the town of Blaenavon, it also includes many square miles of the surrounding countryside which was influenced by industrial development. This includes everything from iron and coal mines to centuries of medieval ore digs and ponds built during Roman times.

This might be the only world heritage site which preserves a sizable tract of land precisely because of human impact upon it.

Blaenavon can easily be visited by train from any major city in Great Britain. It is currently the only world heritage site in the UK which has a dedicated visitors center. It is also adjacent to the Brecons Beacons National Park, which should also be included to any trip to the region.

Overview

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK. It was inscribed in 2000 and is recognized for the early production of iron and coal. The town is filled with ironworks and coal mines that helped to support its economy, and to which it has earned its cultural value for. This World Heritage Site consists of several historical buildings that form the industrial landscape such as those involved in the industrial processes, worker’s housing, transport infrastructure, and other monuments linked to its industrialization.

The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape is located in Torfaen in Wales, United Kingdom. The former ironworks and coal mine site is now available as a museum known as Blaenavon Ironworks.

About the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape consists of several monuments and historical buildings that were instrumental during the industrial development in this part of Wales. In fact, it is important as it is a microcosm of the Industrial Revolution that took place in Britain. Coal and iron are two of the main products that were manufactured at that time and most of them originated from South Wales. Production of iron grew significantly from the late 18th century to mid-19th century. The iron were used for the manufacture of various types of infrastructure such as factories, engines, and railways.

The World Heritage Area of Blaenavon Industrial Landscape consists primarily of the industrial area that was developed by the Blaenavon Company, which they leased in the late 18th century. This area was basically transformed by the presence of this company on the region performing various mining and iron making activities. The entire site spans 3,290 hectares in land area. Among the common features within this industrial landscape are the mines, quarries, canal, manufacturing plant, along with the transportation and social infrastructure.

The Blaenavon Ironworks was operational from 1789 to 1902. To this day, the remains of this old industrial company has remained intact and in excellent state of preservation. The Big Pit, which is a deep coal mine, was one of the last few components of this industrial landscape to be operational. The Big Pit Colliery and some parts of this industrial landscape have been re-opened as a museum. In fact, visitors are welcome to take the underground tour in order to get an idea of how the miners and iron workers did their job during the 18th century when the mine was still in operation.

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

Even though there are more than 3,000 hectares covered by the Blaenavon Ironworks operation, only 33 square kilometers of it is protected by UNESCO. Blaenavon Industrial Landscape was the first cultural landscape to be recognized in the United Kingdom. In total, there are 24 monuments and 82 buildings that are officially part of this landscape.

Prior to it being named as a World Heritage Site, many of these buildings were vulnerable as they had little to no conservation work done. But after it has been listed by UNESCO, there have been extensive work done in order to preserve these monuments. As part of this development, a World Heritage Center was opened on the site in 2008.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom.

view my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #258: Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

UNESCO World Heritage Site #258: Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast
UNESCO World Heritage Site #258: Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast

From the World Heritage inscription:

The site lies on the north coast of the County of Antrim, Northern Ireland, and includes the Causeway Coast extending for about 6 km between Causeway Head and Benbane Head. The Causeway Coast has an unparalleled display of geological formations representing volcanic activity during the early Tertiary period some 50-60 million years ago. The most characteristic and unique feature of the site is the exposure of a large number of regular polygonal columns of basalt in perfect horizontal sections forming a pavement.

Tertiary lavas of the Antrim Plateau, covering some 3,800 km2 , represent the largest remaining lava plateau in Europe. The coastline is composed of a series of bays and headlands consisting of resistant lavas.

The average height of the cliffs is 100 m, and has a stepped appearance due to the succession of five or six lava flows through geological time. This geological succession during the Tertiary period consists of the Lower Basalts, where about six of the 11 lava flows are 67 m thick and are exposed between Plaiskin Head and Benbane Head; the Interbasaltic Bed which are exposed along extensive sections of the cliffs east of Giant’s Causeway; and the Middle Basalts, which are thick flows ranging from 30 m to over 150 m. The Giant’s Causeway displays the columnar basalt structures and includes the Specific sites of interest include the Giant’s Causeway itself (a sea-level promontory of almost entirely regular polygonal columns averaging 45 cm in diameter and numbering 40,000 columns), the Giant’s Organ (60, 12 m high regular columns and the three-tier structured Middle Basalt), Chimney Tops and Hamilton’s Seat (a viewpoint). The coastline is also cut through by olivine and theoleiite dykes.

In addition to its geological features the site has a range of habitats covering seashore, cliff, scree, grassland, scrub, heathland and marsh.

The Giant’s Causeway itself (a sea-level promontory of almost entirely regular polygonal columns averaging 45 cm in diameter and numbering approximately 40,000 columns); the Giant’s Organ (about 60 regular columns, 12 m high; Chimney Tops (a number of columns separated from the cliffs by erosion); and Hamilton’s Seat (a view point). The coastline is also cut through by olivine and tholeiite dykes, a good example of which can be seen at Roveran Valley Head. Exposure of these columns, in perfect horizontal sections at such a scale creating a pavement, is considered a unique combination of features.

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

Giant’s Causeway is undoubtedly one of the best known destinations in Northern Ireland. It is approximately a one hour drive from Belfast and is easily reachable by car. There are also many day tours from Belfast you can take. It could even be reached by car from Dublin as it is only a 2-2.5 hour drive.

The actual Giant’s Causeway rock formations for which is it best known is actually quite small. Far smaller than I thought it would be. It is also crawling with people, so getting a shot without a bunch of tourists took me about 15 minutes of sitting in one spot waiting for a 2 second window when no one was standing on the formation I wanted to photograph.

Overview

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK, specifically located in Northern Ireland. It is a unique volcanic and geological formation that was inscribed into the UNESCO list in 1986. The site is one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Northern Ireland as it consists of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. These columns were naturally formed due to a volcanic eruption.

The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is located about 2 miles north of County Antrim in Northern Ireland. This is located on the northeast coast of Ireland.

About Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is a UNESCO site that is centered on a unique geological formation consisting of basalt columns. Aside from being recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it is also a national nature reserve recognized by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland in 1987. The site is currently owned and managed by the National Trust. The rest of the site is owned by the Crown Estate and a few private land owners.

The history of the formation of the Giant’s Causeway can be traced back to about 50-60 million years ago. The county of Antrim was constantly subjected to intense volcanic activity. The molten basalt in liquid form would penetrate into the chalk beds to form a lava plateau. Once the lava cooled, it would result in a contraction. This caused a chain of natural formation that left pillar-like structures to form. Each column comes at a different size depending on the speed at which lava would cool after a volcanic eruption.

The discovery of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is estimated to have taken place in the late 17th century when the Bishop of Derry visited the site. Eventually, the site’s discovery was made known publicly. It quickly gained international attention. However, tourists did not start coming into this site until the 19th century, specifically after the Giant’s Cause Tramway was opened.

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast

From 2000 to 2012, the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast had no visitor center. Public money was generated in order to build a visitor center. The new visitor center officially opened in 2012 with the help of funding from the National Trust, along with the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

There are several basalt columns and pillar-like structures that form Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast. However, there are a few distinctive formations that have caught the eye of the visitors. Some of the most notable features at the site included The Giant’s Boot, The Chimney Stacks, Camel’s Hump, and Giant’s Gate, to name a few.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #257: Sceilg Mhichíl

UNESCO World Heritage Site #257: Sceilg Mhichíl
UNESCO World Heritage Site #257: Sceilg Mhichíl

From the World Heritage inscription:

Skellig Michael is an outstanding, and in many respects unique, example of an early religious settlement deliberately sited on a pyramidal rock in the ocean, preserved because of a remarkable environment. It illustrates, as no other site can, the extremes of a Christian monasticism characterizing much of North Africa, the Near East and Europe.

The island of Skellig Michael lies 11.6 km off Bolus Head, the westernmost tip of the lveragh Peninsula of County Kerry. Faulting of Devonian sandstone and gravels has created a U-shaped depression, known today as ‘Christ’s Valley’ or ‘Christ’s Saddle’, 130 m above sea level in the centre of the island, and this is flanked by two peaks, that to the north-east rising to 185 m and that to the west-south-west 218 m. The rock is deeply eroded and weathered, owing to its exposed position, but is almost frost-free. Landing is possible at three points, depending on the state of the sea. These communicate by flights of steps with the principal monastic remains, which are situated on a sloping shelf on the ridge running north-south on the north-eastern side of the island; the hermitage is on the steeper South Peak.

The approach to the monastery from Christ’s Saddle leads to a long narrow terrace. A doorway in the rear wall gives access via a flight of Steps to a larger enclosure, which is in its turn terraced and subdivided; the lowest level contains the main monastic enclosure, comprised of a church, oratories, cells, a souterrain, and many crosses and cross-slabs. The white quartz paving between the buildings gives the ensemble an urban quality.

The Large Oratory has the usual inverted boat-shaped form, with a door in the west wall. It is built from coursed stone, rectangular at the base and becoming oval as it rises in height; the elongated dome terminates inside in a row of large slabs. The Small Oratory is more carefully constructed, and is considered to be later in date. Nearby are the unique remains of a beehive-shaped toilet cell. Cell A is the largest of the six cells and must have had a communal function. Several have cupboards and projecting stones for hanging purposes. They vary in plan – square, rectangular, and D-shaped; several retain their original flagged floors.

St Michael’s Church is rectangular in form, unlike the oratories, and would originally have had a timber roof. Two stages of construction can be identified: a small church in mortared stone was later expanded, using much larger sandstone blocks.

Sceilg Mhichíl

Simply put, Skellig Michael (aka Sceilg Mhichíl) is fantastic.

It is by far that most amazing thing I’ve seen in Ireland and in my book it is one of the top world heritage sites in all of Europe. It is also one of the more difficult to visit world heritage sites in Europe.

To get to Skellig Michael, you first have to get to the village of Portmargee in county Kerry in the extreme southwestern part of Ireland. Then you need to book passage on one of the boats which go to Skellig Michael. They don’t go every day due to weather and they are limited in the number of passengers they can take. Only about 50 people were on the island the day I visited. I don’t think the island can accommodate many more.

The difficulty of visiting is more a statement about how easy most European sites are to visit than how hard it is to get to Skellig Michael.

Upon visiting, I was astonished that people ever managed to land on the island, let alone live on it. The rocks on the island are almost all vertical. If there wasn’t a modern platform for the ships to dock at, I don’t know how it would be possible to get on the island. That monks once lived here and created a small community is simply amazing.

There is another small island near Skellig Michael called Small Skellig which can be seen in the above photo. It has no human presence and is covered with seabirds.

If you are in Ireland, I highly recommend putting Skellig Michael near the top of your list of things to see.

Overview

Sceilg Mhichíl

Sceilg Mhichíl, also known as Skellig Michael, is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ireland. It was inscribed in 1996 as a cultural and religious structure, particularly linked with the Christian religion. This site consists of an early monastic complex that is situated on a steep rocky island that is difficult to access and remote.

The Sceilg Mhichíl is built on an island called Great Skellig. It is located 15 kilometers west of County Kerry in Ireland. There are two main buildings that were constructed in Sceilg Mhichíl: Monastery and Hermitage.

About Sceilg Mhichíl

Sceilg Mhichíl

Prior to the founding of the monastic complex, Sceilg Mhichíl was uninhabited (apart from the mating birds). To this day, the exact date of the founding of the monastery at Sceilg Mhichíl is still unknown. It was in the 8th century wherein the first trace of monastic activity was recorded. However, there are also several claims that it was founded in the 6th century by Saint Fionan.

The monastic site on Sceilg Mhichíl is located on a terraced shelf that rises 180 meters above sea level. This monastic complex was developed sometime in the 6th to the 8th centuries. The complex is composed of 6 beehive cells, 2 oratories, and a few stone crosses and slabs. There is also a medieval church on the island.

Both the cells and oratories were constructed using the dry-built corbel method. After that, they developed a method for collecting and purifying water. According to records, there were about 12 monks and an abbot that lived on the monastery. The hermitage, which is another component of the monastic complex at Sceilg Mhichíl, is located on the south peak.

Due to the remoteness of the monastery, the monks who lived here followed a unique diet. The location of the island in the North Atlantic means that they had access to different food sources from those on the mainland. They did not have the appropriate land to grow grains in, they had to make their own vegetable gardens instead. Aside from the vegetables, they also survived on fish and eggs of bird nesting on the island.

Sceilg Mhichíl

The monastery was inhabited until the 12th to 13th century. This was during a time wherein the climate at Sceilg Mhichíl became colder and was constantly hit by storm. This period has also seen some changes to the structure of the Irish Church. Hence, the community of monks that lived on Sceilg Mhichíl was forced to abandon it.

Aside from being named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sceilg Mhichíl was also listed under the Special Protection Area. This was through the initiative of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in 2010.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.