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Staffa - The Home of Fingal's Cave

I'd read somewhere about the cave that is reported to have inspired Mendelssohn's "Hebridean Overture". Since I happen to be partial to Mendelssohn, the idea of visiting Fingal's Cave caught my fancy. So I began searching for information about Staffa.

It was on Joanne Mackenzie-Winters' website, The Internet Guide to Scotland, I found this evocative description of her 1993 visit - a description that vaulted Staffa to its "must visit" status on our to-do list. http://www.scotland-inverness.co.uk/staffa.htm

To get to Staffa, you can hire a private guide, or you can book one of several excursions from either Mull or Oban. We weren't thrilled about joining a group. Since Staffa is a very small island and, once there, we wouldn't have been able to avoid these groups anyway, we decided to save the money and take one of the scheduled excursions.

Our approach circled the island and passed the large cave before we reached this view of the entrance to Fingal's cave. At first I didn't know which cave was our goal. Then I remembered Ms. Mackenzie-Winter's description that it was a mere 12 meters wide. So, I knew it had to be this one.


The side walls of the island displayed their unique formation as the boat reaches the ramp. I commented to Dan that Staffa was the watery cousin of Devil's Tower.


On land, we began picking our way to the cave entrance about a quarter of the way around the island. The natural formation of the hexigonal stone pillars makes flat topped stepping stones that are perfectly fitted. But, there are a few places where there isn't enough of a foothold so a few unobtrusive concrete steps have been installed. You can see an example just behind the head of the girl sitting in the foreground. As you get closer to the cave entrance, you have to hug the wall. Passing another person is difficult, so, cables were also installed. The people in the background of this photo are getting "up-close-and-personal" as they pass each other along the cable.


When we reached the entrance to the cave, we were rewarded for the effort.

All my life, I've described colors using the 64 count Crayola box. The original names from the late 50s, not the new politically correct names of today. So, even though my camera did a pretty good job of picking up the colors, indulge me.

The water is the classic blue green you get (not to be confused with green blue), when you bear down really hard and cover the paper with a thick waxy layer that allows no white to show through.

The long shafts of sidewalls toward the front of the cave are silver overlayed with spring green.

The tops of the shorter shafts closer to the front are spring green with just a hint of silver.

The lower rocks are a masterfully shaded range from orchid to carnation pink to violet red and leading to a deep magenta on the back wall.


The ceiling of Fingal's Cave is a marvel. A silvery cathedral of hexagonal stone dusted with the goldenrod. (Oops, there I go again with the crayons.)


Looking out from within the cave directly toward the island of Iona in the distance, we are struck by the lack of color in the rocks and water where the sun hits. As we faced into the cave, they were alive with color. As we face out they are back to being a mundane tan and grey, and the water is merely cobalt. Maybe a scientist can explain this to me.


Comments (5)

It looks like a lovely spot. I love the crayon color descriptions. There must be something crystalline in the rock that reflects the sunlight.

Wow! Gorgeous photos, and great descriptions!
Very interesting re the colors and the sun, I imagine it has something to do with the total reflection of the sun, and the the emissions of the color spectrum from inside the cave, but I am not exactly sure, you got me curious now.

Can't wait to hear more about your trip.


Great description of the cave and totally amazing photos!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Deborah, what an amazing place and I like your description of the colors. What interesting formations. I am really enjoying reading about your experiences and looking at all of your photos.

Thank you so much.

Barb Cabot:

Wow, this is amazing. The colors must have seemed unreal. Mike would love this place.

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