Fingal’s Cave is a geological wonder and has been an inspiration to musicians and artists for hundreds of years. It’s located on the uninhabited island of Staffa which is part of the ‘Inner Hebrides’ off the west coast of Scotland. The cave is a ‘sea cave’ – a term used to describe how the structure was formed by the movement of waves causing the sea to erode the rock over many millennia. There are many examples of sea caves around the world but this is one of the finest and most accessible.
Fingal’s Cave is entirely symmetrical and formed from hexagonally jointed basalt. It feels like a large building and the acoustics of the cavern create a weird and wonderfully atmospheric environment. It has been likened to a natural cathedral. Visitors will be in awe of the power of the sea and what it can create given enough time.
Erosion is most often seen from a negative perspective and it can and does have a devastating effect on coastlines of Britain but it also has the ability to create some of the most beautiful rock formations seen by man.
“One of the most remarkable places I ever beheld,” is how Sir Walter Scott described Fingal’s Cave. “It exceeded in my mind every description I heard of it…composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral and running into deep rock entirely swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved as it were by ruddy marvel, baffles all description,” he continued.
The cave also had a huge impact upon 20-year-old composer Felix Mendelssohn who visited it on a wild day in August 1829. Although, severely sea sick the young musician was so struck by his visit to Staffa and the sight and sounds of the sea pouring into the cave that it formed part of his ‘Hebrides Overture.’
It is a structure that has inspired many works of art including a piece by the artist J.M.W. Turner who painted ‘Staffa, Fingal’s Cave’ in 1832.
Many poets have also been inspired to write about the cave including, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth and John Keats. Author, Jules Verne refers to Fingal’s Cave in his novel ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth.’
Various suggestions have been made as to how the structure got its name. One of these is that it is named after the hero of a poem by James Macpherson, an 18th century Scots poet and historian.
There is also the theory that it is named after Finn MacCumhaill or as he was known ‘Fingal’ the leader of a band of warriors who were a Celtic equivalent of King Arthur and his Round Table.
Visitors can see the cave by taking a boat ride across to the island from the mainland and most operators run daily services. The sea and cliffs around the island are a haven for wildlife including, sea eagles, puffins, basking sharks, whales and dolphins.
The cave is above the waterline so it is accessible on foot but due to the surrounding geology it might be difficult for some visitors to reach.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
A828 (Rd), Barcaldine by Connel
Argyll, Scotland, PA37 1SG
+44 (0)1603 620 060
- Address: Isle of Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom
- GPS: 56.431222159014524,-6.3411712646484375
- Part of UK: Scotland
- Sat Nav Postcode: PA76 6SW
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: None
- Visibility from Road: None
- Image Credits: TTphoto