Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fingal's Cave

Fingal's Cave, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. (Wikipedia Commons. Click to enlarge.)

Staffa is an uninhabited island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

You may take a boat tour of Staffa from the Isle of Mull, itself a place of magnificent unspoiled beauty with a 300 mile coastline and a population of only about 2700.

In turn you may reach the Isle of Mull by ferry from Oban, a town about 90 miles north of Glasgow.

Some of us will never visit Staffa, or the Isle of Mull, or even Scotland for that matter, and we know who we are. Many people have made the journey however, and if you live in the United Kingdom, you should certainly be one of these visitors. You will never forget it.

In 1829, a classical composer by the name of Felix Mendelssohn made the trip from his German homeland and was inspired to write the beautiful and haunting Hebrides Overture, commonly known simply as "Fingal’s Cave." The music was inspired by the almost unearthly echoes of the sea which can be heard from inside the cave.

This and subsequent trips to Britain, and his friendship with Queen Victoria and her musical husband Prince Albert, also inspired Mendelssohn’s Symphony #3 (Scottish Symphony.)

Although the boat tours do not go into the cave, it may be reached on foot from the island in which it is located, Staffa.

Sir Walter Scott described Fingal's Cave as "…one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld. It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it… composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral, and running deep into the rock, eternally swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved, as it were, with ruddy marble, baffles all description."

Update: Check out this song Fingal The Giant on Soubriquet's blog.

Note: If you can't place Mendelssohn, here is probably his most recognized composition.

And...  Fingal's Cave (short free preview)

Italian Symphony (short free preview, click on #1)

Scottish Symphony (short free preview, click on #2)


  1. This is breathtaking to look at. I could not imagine how much more it would be to see it for real. I love this!

  2. Did you know that the NTS owns something like 16 islands? Just thought I'd be nerdy and point that out...I'll go away now.

  3. Ettarose, I would love to see it too. I'm glad you stopped by, too. ;)

    Alison, I didn't know that. I was thinking just "regular" -type properties. Like castles. :) But it makes sense. And don't go away...

  4. I have another "did you know?" - the basalt pillars that you mention are from the same lava flow as the basalt forming the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. According to legend, Finn McCool built the causeway to cross to Scotland.

  5. I posted a song, "Fingal the Giant" here:

    I just love all that columnar basalt... There's a church in Reykjavik where the architect took that as his starting point, google "Hallgrimskirkja".

  6. Found it! I knew I'd told you about basalt pillars before. I can tell you hang on my every word....



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