Fingal's Cave

Fingal's Cave, on the island of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland (near Mull and Iona), is a sea cave formed within Tertiary basalt lava flows which have cooled to form hexagonal columns (like those of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland). There is a path in on one side which involves stepping from the top of one column to the next. The cave stretches 250 feet in to the rock and its roof is 70 feet above the sea. Fingal's cave was the inspriration for Mendelssohn's Hebridean overture.

Photograph of the island of Staffa

This photograph shows Fingal's Cave and the columnar jointing in Tertiary volcanic flows (click on it for a larger version). Staffa is three quarters of a mile long, one quarter of a mile wide, has a circumference of one and a half miles, an area of 71 acres, and is 135 feet high at its highest point.

Photograph source: British Geological Survey, URL:

An article by Martin Mills

Reproduced from an article in the GSG Bulletin, Volume 3 Number 1, March 1994

I have long been of the view that Fingal's Cave has to be the most famous but least visited cave in the world! By famous I mean most often mentioned. Pick up any geological textbook in almost any language (eg. Icelandic - and I have scanned a few of those) and it will mention Fingal's - famous of course for its basalt columns. It had been `discovered' by Sir Joseph Banks who landed on the island in August 1772 while on a natural history expedition to Iceland. Although he is blamed for misnaming Uamh-Binn (The Cave of Melody), Fingal's Cave, Felix Mendelssohn also contributed to its popularity following his visit on 8th August 1829. Thereafter it was to be an object of scientific interest and picturesque grandeur, particularly during Victorian times. Paddle steamers would land 300 people a day on the island.

Boatmen running trips to Staffa:

Caves and Caving in the UK