Scotland's end of the Giant's Causeway

Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa has inspired legend, overtures, paintings and even psychedelic rock over the years .

Monday, 7th May 2018, 7:03 pm
Updated Monday, 7th May 2018, 7:10 pm
Fingal's Cave on Staffa was formed at the same time as the Giant's Causeway in Antrim, Northern Ireland. PIC: Magnus Hagdorn/Flickr/Creative Commons.
Fingal's Cave on Staffa was formed at the same time as the Giant's Causeway in Antrim, Northern Ireland. PIC: Magnus Hagdorn/Flickr/Creative Commons.

The stunning natural wonder was formed by the same type of lava that created the Giant’s Causeway in Country Antrim between 50 and 60 million years ago.

The cave named was named after James Macpherson’s 18th Century epic poem Fingal, which was inspired by the legend of Irish chief Fionn mac Cumhail who is said to have built Giant’s Causeway to reach his great foe over the Irish Sea.

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The roots of the connection between the Giant’s Causeway and Fingal’s Cave go back much further that the poem, however.

Both geological wonders were created up to 60m years ago by the same Paleocene lava flow and share the same stunning hexagonally joined basalt pillars.

According to local experts Staffa Tours, the columns of rock at both Giant’s Causeway and Fingal’s Cave were laid down at the same time.

Fingal’s Cave was formed when pressure forced open a crack, which was further moulded by violent waves striking Staffa over thousands of years ago.

The natural wonder of the cave has inspired and enthralled over centuries.

Its natural acoustics amplify the sounds of the waves with its arched roof earning the cave the Gaelic name ‘Uamh-Binn’ - or the cave of melody.

Composer Felix Mendelssohn visited the cave in 1829 while on a tour of Scotland and completed his Hebrides Overture, which is also known as Fingal’s Cave, the following year.

The work helped the landmark become a tourist destination with famous visitors including Sir Walter Scott, Keats, Turner, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Prince William of Orange, William Wordsworth, Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Tourist also flocked there during the Victoria era when cruises to the Western Isles grew increasingly popular.

A report in The Scotsman on Friday, September 6, 1872, notes how new railings and wire ropes had been instealled at the cave to allow the “most timid to tread with confidence” over the uneven pillars.

The correspondent added: “In my long experience of visiting Staffa, I never witnesses a more interesting sight that was presented today by nearly 100 ladies and gentlemen congregated along the side of this wonderful Temple of Nature, where with much effect the National Anthem and other popular airs were sung.

The cave was also mentioned in one of Pink Floyd’s early songs, written for the film Zabriskie Point, but was not used.

Sir Walter Scott described the cave as “one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld” which baffled description.

The National Trust for Scotland was gifted Staffa in 1986 by New York advertising executive Jock Elliot.

He bought the island for his wife’s 60th birthday and she owned if for only a few days before handing it over to the charity.