The Magic of Fingal's Cave


We don't have a bucket list for family adventures but I do admit that we have a sort of wish list. Or at least I do personally. Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa was added quite a few years back after I had seen a picture somewhere.

The Magic of Fingal's Cave

Shortly after that, we did a spot of glamping and our wigwam was called 'Staffa'; and I just remembered we even wrote a blog article about that trip - so I could establish it was indeed in the autumn of 2013! (See related articles below)

But it took until this year to finally carve out enough travel and holiday time to make it all the way to the western end of the Isle of Mull and then take a boat to the Isle of Staffa. Fingal's Cave was meant to be the highlight of our trip and being prone to panicking about booking in advance it was a miracle I managed to hold on until the Sunday of our departure to commit to a day and time. Weather is obviously a worry on the west coast of Scotland so to maximise the chance of our trip actually going ahead I wanted to hang on as long as possible to get a weather forecast that would possibly or rather hopefully hold. The rain wasn't so much of an issue but wind certainly was. June is as good as bet as any for calm(er) conditions but with only a few days to go, it didn't look very promising at all.

In the end, I picked the best option (going by the forecast) from the 2 days we'd be able to do the trip - crossed all fingers and hoped for the best. And then I fretted for 3 1/2 full days and a whole night about the constantly changing forecast and wind speed.

When we woke up on the Wednesday morning - or rather when my long sleepless night listening to the gusts and rain on the tent roof came to an end - we had little hope. This was also a full 17(!) hours after losing all mobile signal and the internet so I was literally flying blind and hoping that the last forecast predicting calmer conditions from mid-morning was actually true. We decided with the tickets already booked and paid there was no point to not at least wander to the pier and see what it looked like.

And - miraculously - the wind was indeed dying down gradually and the sea we had imagined to be VERY rough was just well rough(ish). There were plenty of people waiting for the early bird departure of Staffa Tours so we decided that well we were hardy Highlanders after all so there was no stopping us. It also helped that the boys were mightily impressed by the boat that pulled up. There was definitely no stopping them!

I was glad we had booked because indeed it was very full but we were all on board quite quickly and off we went. The journey to Staffa was surprisingly smooth given the size of the waves we had to jump over. Stewart would be able to tell you what amazing engine size made that possible - bottom line - it was strong!

It didn't take long until we saw the basalt columns of Staffa emerge. the name Staffa originates from the Old Norse for stave or pillar island and was apparently named by the Vikings because the columnar basalt reminded them of their houses made from vertically placed tree-logs.

Arriving by sea from Fionnphort means you approach from the Fingal's cave side - a large sea cave located near the southern tip of the island some 20 m high and 75 m long formed in cliffs of hexagonal basalt columns. it was just WOW and none of the images you will see on this blog do it any justice (photographing the dark grey basalt was really tricky).

Landing on Staffa is not guaranteed as it depends on the weather and sea conditions. So we were really lucky that we could go on shore and get a chance to walk to the cave (and later to the puffins). And - total research failure - I had totally overlooked that you can actually walk TO the cave and then INTO it. A lovely surprise (must review the wisdom of research soon I think!)

The path is narrow and a bit slippery but there is a good sturdy rope to hold on to and it's far enough from the sea that even I could deal with it. Being on the first trip of the day was really fortuitous as there was nobody going the other way and we had some time to stare in total awe at the cave and then peek into it. Due to the puffin schedule (overall we had an hour on the island) nobody was lingering for too long but there was enough time to take in the magnitude of this geological wonder!

There weren't any other families on the trip but plenty of elderly people for whom the path was a real undertaking. It was moving to see how they were rewarded when they made it all the way and saw the cave.

A most magical experience! So whatever you have - a bucket list or a to-do list or just something very special that you always wanted to explore - DO make the effort to make it happen!

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About the Author

Monika Strell

Monika Strell

About Me & Mine

Monika (an Austrian in Scotland), Stewart (a true Highlander) and Corwin (8), plus 2 dogs and 5 cats.  We live on a woodland croft in the parish of Assynt, in the far North West Highlands of Scotland.

Favourite place in the world:

Home - we are lucky to have mountains and beaches on our doorstep and Scotland generally; but we also love the mountains in my native Austria and have a soft spot for California, where we spent our honeymoon.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Explovering (our personal term for exploring and discovering) mountains, lochs and beaches, camping, foraging, star gazing, Geocaching, developing our already wonderful woodlands into a magic place to share with family, friends and neighbours and fishing.

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