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A Scottish Island: The Isle of Staffa: Fingal's Cave and Puffins

Updated on December 7, 2016

Fingal's Cave

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Staffa is a small uninhabited island on the West Coast of Scotland, near Mull and Iona.

The island is famous for its natural beauty, especially Fingal's Cave. This spectacular cave has inspired many famous visitors throughout the centuries including the composer Felix Mendelssohn, the author Walter Scott and the poet William Wordsworth.

Today it is a popular visitor attraction, and also an excellent place to visit for wildlife lovers. The island is home to puffins, and if you are lucky you may be able to spot Gray Seals, dolphins, Basking Sharks, Minke, or Pilot Whales in the surrounding sea.

Fingal and literary fraud

'Fingal' is a translation of the name for the Irish Gaelic folkhero Fionn mac Cumhaill made by James Macpherson in his 1761 collection of poems called the Ossian. James Macpherson claimed to have collected ancient poems from the original Gaelic language and have translated them into English. The Ossian was very popular and successful internationally, although others questioned the works authenticity, and whether he had copied from Irish works. Today it is generally though that Macpherson is guilty of literary fraud. It is thought Macpherson may have used some original Gaelic manuscripts and oral sources, but heavily adapted them, and added his own bits.

Fingal's Cave

Fingal's cave is made up of hexagonal basalt columns formed as lava cooled down. It's unique beauty has amazed many visitors over the centuries. The echoes of the waves in the cave give it the atmosphere of a cathedral.

Fingal's cave is named after Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn McCoul, an Irish folk hero, who is said to have been a giant and built the Giant's Causeway as a stepping stone from Ireland to Scotland. The Giant's Causeway is made of basalt columns like Fingal's Cave.

Some of Staffa's famous nineteenth century visitors include Jules Verne; William Wordsworth, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, J. M. W. Turner, Felix Mendelssohn, Queen Victoria, August Strindberg, and Walter Scott.


Ferry arriving at Staffa
Ferry arriving at Staffa | Source

Puffins on Staffa

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How to get to Staffa

There are a number of companies who run organised tours to the Isle of Staffa.

Tours to Staffa operate from the following locations:

  • Oban
  • Fionnphort on Mull
  • The Isle of Iona
  • Tobermory on Mull

Be warned that these tours are not cheap! Prices start from £30 for an adult ticket, and £15 for a child. For some tours they are significantly more than this! Unfortunately unless you have your own boat, there isn't another way to visit Staffa. If you can afford it on your budget it is worth visiting.

Many tours to the Isle of Staffa are combined with visits to the Isle of Iona, and to some of the Treshnish Isles. The Treshnish Isles are a group of 7 small uninhabited islands. The isle of Lunga in particular is known for its wildlife. Make sure you chose a tour which allows you to stop and explore Staffa and Fingal's Cave.

Felix Mendelssohon's music inspired by Fingal's Cave

The German composer Felix Mendelssohn visited Staffa in 1829 and was inspired to write his Hebridean Overture. An annual festival 'Mendelssohn on Mull' is held every year in July on Mull to celebrate Mendelssohn's visit.

View from the top to the entrance of Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa, Scotland
View from the top to the entrance of Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa, Scotland | Source

A nineteenth century engraving of Fingal's Cave

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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 3 years ago

      daydreams: Interesting hub! Re. Macpherson's Ossian, it's probably fair to say that in the long term what is most significant about his work is the effect it had on the Romantic literary movement and the rôle it played in making Celtic literature better known, rather than being strictly about Macpherson's relaxed editing methods. Fair point, maybe? Enjoyed the hub!

      (MJF, Ontario, Canada)

    • daydreams profile image
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      Marianne Sherret 3 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Thank you for your comment. Yes I think you are right about Ossian, whether or not his work was authentic it was very influential.

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