Fingal's Cave, Staffa

Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland

 This evening, I am focusing on Staffa, a fascinating, uninhabited island off the West Coast of Scotland. Staffa was formed by volcanic action some 60m years ago. The columns are made from dark grey basalt.It is believed that the molten rock was heated to around 1200 degrees C and then cooled, hardened and fractured into stone pillars. These pillars have underlying geometric shapes but vary in detail because of the disparate cooling rates.

The name Staffa is of Old Norse origin and means ‘wooden building staves’. ( The Norwegian Vikings controlled parts of the West of Scotland for hundreds of years up until the 13th century.)

The sea caves have been formed by wave action. The island gained international recognition after a visit by the composer, Felix Mendelssohn who visited the island in 1829 and was inspired to compose Hebrides Overture (‘Fingal’s Cave’).

Lava Columns, Staffa

Lava Columns, Staffa, Scotland

 Note the similarity between the basalt columns at Staffa (above) and those at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland (below). These of course share common geological history. The two are also linked via the legend of Fingal, a Gaelic giant who built a causeway between Scotland and Ireland which was ultimately destroyed leaving the two ends which remain today.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Lava at Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Staffa Geology

Staffa Geology Scotland

 Apart from the geology, Staffa today is know for:

  • Nesting place for a wide range of sea-birds including puffins.
  • Its flora with a variety of vegetation prospering in absence of grazing animals.
  • Sea life: fish plus jellyfish, crustaceans, algae, dolphins, porpoises and grey seals.

To get to Staffa entails some determination. First a ferry to Mull then a drive across Mull to catch another ferry from Fionnphort or Iona. Well worth the effort if the weather is right!

Elsewhere today, I have designed a self-drive tour itinerary for a small group from Europe with focus on whisky distilleries.

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