The Queen visited the famous stones of the Giant’s Causeway as part of her 90th birthday tour of the north coast.
The monarch and Duke of Edinburgh, 94, braved blustery conditions to view the landmark Unesco World Heritage site.
On a grey and blustery day, the Queen added a splash of summer in a green coat which she teamed, as always, with a matching hat.
The world renowned visitor site is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the majority hexagonal, that were created in a volcanic eruption.
Ancient folklore has it that Irish giant Finn MacCool built the causeway by hand in an effort to traverse the North Channel to do battle with a Scottish giant.
The existence of similar stone columns on the Scottish isle of Staffa helped build the legend down the centuries.
Neville McConachie, the visitor experience supervisor at the National Trust site, explained both theories on the causeway’s creation to the Royal couple on Tuesday morning.
“She was asking about the formation of the rock and I was telling her it was either caused by nature or a giant, and I believe a giant” he said.
Mr McConachie said he told the Queen that the Scottish giant Benandonner reputedly destroyed the construct as he fled Ireland in fear of doing battle with Finn MacCool.
“People did say that he actually moved to America, but I was asking her was he may be knocking about Balmoral,” he quipped
Tourists from around the world were thrilled with the Queen’s visit and cheered and some sang God Save The Queen as the Royal cavalcade weaved its way down the coast road to the stones.
The Queen also toured the visitor centre at the causeway.
She was welcomed to the centre by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, First Minister Arlene Foster and Stormont Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.
The Royal couple met National Trust staff, rangers and volunteers who run the centre - as well as some local craftsmen - before being treated to a short animation of the famous legend of Finn McCool.
Heather McLachlan, Northern Ireland Director for the National Trust said: “It was a huge honour to welcome Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh to Northern Ireland’s most famous natural wonder for the first time.
“The Giant’s Causeway welcomes more than 880,000 visitors a year from across the world. However today’s visitors were certainly extra special.”
The Royal party met with local craft producers who take the opportunity to sell authentic, Northern Irish products to the huge number of international and local visitors to the Causeway Visitor Centre.
The crafters and businesses included Kathryn McWhirter, Katy Honey; Melanie Brown, North Coast Smokehouse; David Moore – Aunt Sandra’s confectionery; Dorothy Bittles , Melting Pot Fudge; Trevor Woods, Mount Ida Pottery; and Gerard Gray, Taisie Crafts.
And it was a special day for four schoolchildren who presented gifts to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh
Nine year old Grace Higgin presented a posy of locally grown flowers to The Queen, while Chloe Walker presented an engraved wooden bowl made from oak with yew insets, by wood turner Gerard Gray of Taisie Crafts based in Glentaisie.
And Kiana Walker (12) and Josh Bryant (10)were thrilled to present an engraved basalt stone to the Duke of Edinburgh.
Max Bryant, National Trust manager at the Giant’s Causeway said: “We play a big role in the local economy and it was a proud moment for our volunteers, staff and local business people to tell The Royal party about the part they play in the community here.
“ I am sure they will take home some lasting memories of our stunning Northern Ireland landscape and the world famous Causeway stones.”