Isle of Staffa

Five miles southwest of Ulva, Staffa is one of the most romantic and dramatic of Scotland's many uninhabited islands. On its south side, the perpendicular rockface features an imposing series of black basalt columns, known as the Colonnade, which have been cut by the sea into cathedralesque caverns, most notably Fingal's Cave. The Vikings knew about the island – the name derives from their word for "Island of Pillars" – but it wasn't until 1772 that it was "discovered" by the world. Turner painted it, Wordsworth explored it, but Mendelssohn's Die Fingalshöhle (the lovely "Hebrides" overture), inspired by the sounds of the sea-wracked caves he heard on a visit here in 1829, did most to popularize the place – after which Queen Victoria gave her blessing, too. Geologists say these polygonal basalt organ pipes were created some sixty million years ago by a massive subterranean explosion. A huge mass of molten basalt burst forth onto land and, as it cooled, solidified into what are, essentially, crystals. Celtic folk tales disagree, arguing that the Giant's Causeway in Ireland reached all the way here before being destroyed by rival giants.

Ref: Isle of Staffa

Date: 20/05/2008

Location: Isle of Staffa

Photographer: Martin Skidmore

Isle of Staffa
Isle of Staffa

Five miles southwest of Ulva, Staffa is one of the most romantic and dramatic of Scotland's many uninhabited islands. On its south side, the perpendicular rockface features an imposing series of black basalt columns, known as the Colonnade, which have been cut by the sea into cathedralesque caverns, most notably Fingal's Cave. The Vikings knew about the island – the name derives from their word for "Island of Pillars" – but it wasn't until 1772 that it was "discovered" by the world. Turner painted it, Wordsworth explored it, but Mendelssohn's Die Fingalshöhle (the lovely "Hebrides" overture), inspired by the sounds of the sea-wracked caves he heard on a visit here in 1829, did most to popularize the place – after which Queen Victoria gave her blessing, too. Geologists say these polygonal basalt organ pipes were created some sixty million years ago by a massive subterranean explosion. A huge mass of molten basalt burst forth onto land and, as it cooled, solidified into what are, essentially, crystals. Celtic folk tales disagree, arguing that the Giant's Causeway in Ireland reached all the way here before being destroyed by rival giants.

Ref: Isle of Staffa

Date: 20/05/2008

Location: Isle of Staffa

Photographer: Martin Skidmore