Tuesday, September 9, 2014

SMALL-SHIP CRUISING IN THE HEBRIDES (Part 4): The caves on STAFFA

On a bright cloudy but dry day, we sailed northwest around the top of Mull and felt the long Atlantic swells for the first time. We anchored for lunch in Calgary Bay, for which our Calgary is named. It's an isolated sandy bay protected by high sides.

We sailed south by Flodda, Lunga, and the oddly-shaped, low-lying Treshnish Islands and skerries that are no longer inhabited. I wondered how anyone could scratch a living here, especially in the early 20th century. They are now left to the abundant wildlife – puffins, gannets, guillimots, seals, etc. But we were really heading for Staffa.

Fingal's Cave is on the right


Staffa is the stuff of legend for here is Fingal's Cave immortalized by Mendelssohn in his Hebrides Overture. It looms out of the sea as a boxy shape, but as the ship approaches I could see the famous basalt columns of which it's made. Thousands of them in vertical rows as if a generation of stonemasons had carved them. Caves delve deep into the isle and visitors can sail into them in small boats and kayaks.




We entered Fingal's Cave in the ships tender, and it's 75m long and 20m high, and lined with hexagonal columns. Looks a bit like a cathedral nave.

We were dropped off around the east side at the jetty to walk round to the cave on a scary, narrow ledge. I chose to climb to the top for a spectacular view as I had already gone inside on the boat.


The ledge walk




Staffa and Mull are the result of ancient volcanic action. The slow cooling of lava created the basalt columns that are really huge hexagonal crystals. They make for an extraordinary sight.





From my perch on Staffa's grassy top, above and below




IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014
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