Today's visitor is free to wander over the stones at will but this was not always the case. In the late 1800s growing fame brought increasing numbers of visitors which motivated a syndicate of businessmen to introduce a very profitable charge scheme to view the stones.
For over a century prior to this there had been disputes of access and ownership, over the centuries the stones have been fenced off, access denied and several legal challenges made. In 1897 however, a lengthy legal battle between the syndicate known as the the Giant's Causeway Company and local people eventually ended up in the High Court of London. The court ruled that the road to the stones had existed for public access to the foreshore, proof came in the form of contractual documentation between Antrim Borough Council and a contractor for the upkeep of the road between Dervock and the Causeway Stones.
The court ruled that this was a legitimate public road but they did not recognize free access over the stones. The Giant's Causeway Company subsequently improved the site, fenced off the stones and levied a charge of 6 pence to view them. It is with therefore, with thanks to a small band of local people who stood up for an ancient 'right of way' that free access is enjoyed today.
A house once stood at the point where the shuttle bus now turns, a caretaker lived here who monitored the stones and turnstile. On the right as you pass through the Giant's Gate stood a Victorian tea room - both have long since gone though postcards do remain. There is also nothing left of a two hundred year old tradition where stalls belonging to local people lined the pathway that sweeps round Port Ganny leading to the Causeway.
Local guides would show people around the area and boatmen would row visitors to see Portcoon Cave or view the spectacular Amphitheatre. Although we walk down today and see no-one working the shoreline, in the past these bays would have supported dozens of local families, a common site would have been people working the kelp or local men manning one of several fishing boats that were kept at the Brenther in Port na Boe, a sheltered boat slip.