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Fingals Cave, Argyll | Isle of Mull

Fingals Cave
Fingal's Cave is a sea cave on the Island of Staffa near Scotland. It is part of a National Trust for Scotland property on the uninhabited island. The area is part of a National Nature Reserve in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Staffa is a small island, it is only three quarters of a mile long and one quarter of a mile wide. It has a circumference of one and a half miles, an area of 71 acres, and rises to just 135 feet high at its highest point. The name Staffa means column. The island has another two similar caves, but both are smaller and less impressive than Fingal's Cave.

The structure of Fingal's Cave is similar to the famous Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, both being formed entirely of hexagonally jointed basalt columns created by intense volcanic action. The similarity of the two sites was noticed even by the Celts, 2,000 years ago. There are similar lava flow patterns at the nearby island of Ulva.

The cave has a naturally arched roof and this, combined with its size, give the chamber the qualities of a cathedral or music hall. The Gaelic name for the cave, Uamh-Binn, means 'Cave of Melody'. The famous German composer Felix Mendelssohn visited the caves in 1829 and was obviously inspired by the experience. He returned home and composed a concert overture which is known as Fingal's Cave or the Hebridean Overture. Other musical associations include one of Pink Floyd's early songs which was also called Fingal's Cave. The famous Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott described Fingal's Cave as one of the most extraordinary places he had ever beheld.

Despite the large arched entrance, and the sea water within the cave, boats cannot enter. Many local boat trips, many of them originating from Mull, include a pass by the cave. These usually run from April to September. There are also boat trips to Fingal's Cave that depart from Fionnphort and Oban . Alternatively, it is possible to land elsewhere on the island and walk to the cave. A row of fractured columns form a walkway just above high-water level and these can be navigated carefully by foot. From the inside of the cave the entrance frames the sacred island of Iona when looking back across the water. During Victorian times, paddle steamers visited Staffa and landed a around 300 people a day on the island for sightseeing trips.

More British Natural features?

Other Argyll Naturals

Loch Awe
Loch Lomond
Loch Fyne
The Trossachs
Glencoe
River Leven

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