“..one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld.
It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it …composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral, and running deep into the rock, eternally swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved, as it were, with ruddy marble, baffles all description.”– Sir Walter Scott
Touring the Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island is a MANDATORY activity if you are in Scotland.
This is a journey where you can plunge and be captivated by the unknown.
Because of the ethereal sight, from the robust scenery to the variety of sea birds you can chance upon to treat your eyeballs.
You will be taken on a boat trip to the Cave, which means you can spot whales, dolphins and porpoises on your way!
So, get ready to cave into an adventure through this article as we step into it, experiencing the unknown to fuel your curiosity to visit the place in reality…!!
1. Fingal’s Cave Description: Curiosity Leads to Exploration
Witness the beauty of our Earth’s hidden treasures when you visit Staffa. I bet you will be awestruck viewing the spectacular sea caves with its tall hexagonal basalt columns.
This particular cave has a unique history and geology you cannot find anywhere else.
It contains fractured columns outside the cave above the water level with crude walkways for visitors to get inside and explore the cavern.
The cave has been a renowned wonder since the ancient Irish and Scottish Celts, which eventually made this site gain prominence in the legends.
It was also called the Uamh-Binn or “The Cave of Melody” for the Celtic people.
The cave’s landmark is also astounding as it is staggeringly deep, up to 230 feet, and the entrance is approximately 60 feet tall and 50 feet wide. Sounds interesting, right?
Interestingly, the cave is inaccessible throughout the year except from April to September. And is a natural nature reserve owned by the Natural Trust of Scotland.
Subsequently, the unusual formations have inspired artists and poets throughout history.
Felix Mendelssohn, who composed the hebrides overture and some of the early songs of Pink Floyd, gained inspiration from the cave’s acoustics.
To the locals, it is called the Melodic Cave, as the sound of the crashing waves echoes in a musical tone from the walls within the cave.
The only commute mode for visitors is by taking a boat from the Isle of Mull and then walking through the cave and listening to the tunes of the waves echoing off the cave walls!
2. Why is Fingal’s Cave Famous?
Located just off Staffa’s southwest coast in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland lies the world’s most popular acoustic sea cave.
It is known as a breathtaking natural wonder for its gorgeous hexagonal columns resulting from massive lave flows millions of years ago.
Here’s why this cave is famous and certainly requires your attention if you travel near the western side of Scotland;
2.1 It has Impressive Geometric Hexagonal Columns
Visiting the cave gives you a feel of something from a science fiction movie.
The symmetrical columns are garnished by perfect hexagons that appear surreal, giving you a sense of uneasiness or amazement. It all depends on each person.
According to scientific explanations, the formation of hexagons is quite simple without the interference of aliens.
It all began millions of years ago when molten lava flowed in and around the cave’s locale.
Upon cooling, there were perpendicular fractures on the cooled surface.
Finally, the waves handcrafted the striking geometric designs of the cave through erosion over the millennia.
2.2 Fingal’s Cave Mendelssohn
If you have carefully read the article from the start, in a specific paragraph, we discussed that Felix Mendelssohn was inspired by the cave.
Here’s what exactly happened…
The cave came into modern reputation since the 1929 visit of the composer Felix Mendelssohn.
He was inspired by the cave’s amazing acoustics from the sound of the lapping waves on the arched roof of the cave walls.
After exiting the trip to the cave, he penned the opening piano melody and sent it to his sister on a postcard.
This is an excerpt from his concert overture, The Hebrides.
“In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there,” he wrote.
Over the upcoming years, he began orchestrating the piece that became one of Mendelssohn’s widely celebrated works.
2.3 Artists than Mendelssohn were Inspired Over Centuries
Apart from being a popular tourist attraction, it has been a consistent source of inspiration for Europe’s renowned artists.
Poets like Wordsworth and John Keats and authors like Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson have been blown away by the comforting tunes of the echoing walls.
Even Queen Victoria, for that matter, was inspired at the cave…!!
Ultimately, Pink Floyd, the rock legend, composed a song from the cave.
2.4 You can Take a Tour by Foot in a Fair Weather from the Cave’s Entrance
Keep in mind the time you pay a visit to the cave. The weather has to be fairly perfect to avoid being trapped inside the sea cave during a storm…!!
On clear days, you can enjoy the cave’s acoustics in all its glory. You can take the short path that takes you to the cave’s endurance.
Unfortunately, they have been damaged recently, and this is not a possible option for visitors to get into the cave.
2.5 Puffins Burrow Nearby During Summer
There are over 600 confirmed puffin burrows housed on Staffa. So, if you wish to treat your eyes to see them in their natural habitat, schedule your trip for the summer.
These colourful birds begin breeding in April and stay beside the burrows till August.
If you’re lucky, you can find them soaring over the ocean for food or just strolling on the island shore.
But these birds are usually found on the opposite side of the island, a bit further away from Fingals Cave.
You can obtain better views of them by touring the Treshnish Isles, an archipelago of small islands close to the cave with a very high puffin population.
However, the birds are typically on the opposite side of the island from Fingal’s Cave.
You’ll stand a better chance of capturing them by visiting the nearby Treshnish Isles, an archipelago of tiny islands with higher puffin populations.
Ultimately, whether you are on a cruise or a quick trip to Staffa, you are sure to fall in love with the Fingal Cave.
So, keep your cameras turned ON to click as many as you can once you find it on the horizon.
The cave is sheer magical and can give you an unforgettable experience for a lifetime…!!
3. How was Fingal’s Cave Formed?
With such a plethora of interesting information, it’s time to cave deep into time to the long, long ago story of the cave.
So, here we go to discover the hidden secrets of our earth right from the comfort of our homes!
3.1 The Fingal’s Cave History
The cave was formed around 60 million years ago through volcanic activity during the Paleogene period.
The cave’s basalt formation and geology look somewhat similar to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Scientists have found that the formation of the basalt columns results from the columnar jointing process.
This occurred with the cooling and contraction of the molten lava that flowed over the area years ago.
As a result of this process, the rocks have cracked into natural hexagonal or polygonal shapes.
This process is quite similar to how fractures appear on drying mud in a river bed.
These columns are rich in iron and magnesium and are called tholeiitic basalt, a type of basalt.
They are arranged tightly in a vertical pattern that appears like a honeycomb and appears otherworldly to the beholder.
Overall, the cave is a testament to incredible geological history that has constantly inspired scientists and visitors alike with its distinct charm and geological significance.
3.2 How was the Cave Publicized to the World?
The cave was a popular attraction to Romantic artists of all disciplines throughout the 19th century.
However, the discovery of the cave goes to the botanist Sir Joseph Banks during his trip to the West in 1772.
He mentioned it in his 1772 Journal of Travel in the same year that gave rise to its cultural importance.
Describing it as “the most magnificent …. that has ever been described by travellers” in his journal, the cave welcomed a flood of tourists throughout the ensuing 250 years.
Even Queen Victoria was a famous tourist who voyaged to the cave.
Later, on August 13, 1772, Banks, with his crew that included artist James Miller, explored, drew and measured Staffa.
The cave’s mention also appeared in 1774 in Thomas Pennant’s A Tour of Scotland and Voyage to The Hebrides.
As time went by, JMW Turner used the painting of the cave as a front cover for the poem by Sir Walter Scott.
It pictured the Cave on the left with a tourist steamer’s smoke billowing towards it.
Ultimately, after the discovery of Banks, there is a whole list of artists sojourning to the cave, which you can read here!
And finally, Felix Mendelssohn, the famous German composer, Pink Floyd and Matthew Barney vaulted the cave to the world.
3.3 The Fingal’s Cave Legend
The name of the cave probably arises from the Irish tale of Finn MacCumhaill.
Though the cave was not home to Fingal, it is believed to be the home of his rival Benandonner, a Scottish Giant.
Also, scientifically, the same lava that flowed 60 million years ago formed the Causeway in Ireland.
So, this legend that connects both structures is believed to be geographically correct.
It is said that vicious insults between the two gave rise to a feud.
As Fingal built the bridge to meet his rival, he saw the Scottish giant over the horizon and great fear fell upon him.
However, the twist is that Fingal’s wife is a cunning lady. She wrapped him in a sheet and laid him on a makeshift crib.
And Benandonner, who waited for his opponent for a long time, crossed the bridge and came to Fingal’s house demanding to fight.
Unfortunately, the make-believe story his wife tells him is that Fingal is out hunting. Also, he notices the ‘child’ at home with his wife.
Benandonner peeped into the crib and was astonished at the size of what he saw.
Now he mistakes thinking that if Fingal’s newborn is that big, the father must have been enormous!
So, the giant freaks out and races to Staffa, breaking the bridge behind him and thanking his lucky stars for arriving home safely.
Over the years, many have forgotten Benandonner and have added Fingal’s name to the incredible cave on Staffa for winning the feud!
4. Fingal’s Cave How to Visit?
Here, we will discuss how to get to Fingal’s Cave from Oban, as that is the quickest way to get to the cave.
Also, if you are driving from there, it’s just two and a half hours drive.
You can even opt for tours from Oban that include other places to explore, including the boat ride to the cave!
However, cruises will be cancelled if it’s too difficult to travel!
5. Okay, Then, When can I Book My Trip to the Cave?
Depending on the weather, most tours operate between April and October when temperatures are bearable with fewer storms.
However, the best time to go is in September (if you don’t want to photograph the puffins) when the weather is pleasant.
And ensure you visit the cave in the morning for the best views.
Also, as always, it’s best to plan and book ahead to avoid disappointments since the boat tours are limited to preserving the distinctive geological site and the surrounding ecosystem.
The prices range between £35 and £73 for the tours, depending on the touring company and the starting point.
Want to try swimming in the cave? Then check here!
6. Rising out of Unknown
Want an awe-inspiring experience? Then book your trip to the Fingal’s Cave!
From the geological history and formation to the exploration, something contributes to this astounding cave’s rich history and cultural significance.
Also, it has been a significant inspiration for some great works of literature, art and music, leaving an eternal impression on art and culture!
So, have you visited the Fingal’s Cave? How was your experience?
Do imprint it in the comment box pinned below this article…!!
Follow us here for more inspiring destinations and information to keep you rejuvenated and refreshed!