Fingal's Cave

From Academic Kids

Fingal's Cave is a sea-cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It derives its name from a legendary 3rd century Scottish king, Fingal, the subject of a poem attributed to James Macpherson. It is formed entirely from hexagonally-jointed basalt, similar to that of the Giant's Causeway in nearby Northern Ireland. Exploring the cave is quite straightforward, as a row of fractured columns form a walkway just above high-water level. Its size, and the eerie sounds produced by the echoes of waves, give it the atmosphere of a natural cathedral.

Missing image
Entrance to Fingals cave

The cave was discovered in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, who visited Staffa on his expedition to Iceland. The grotto, situated in the southern face of the isle, is 75 metres long, 14 metres wide, 22 metres high and 24 metres deep at ebb. On its western side the pillars are 12 metres high, on its east 6 metres high. From its mouth to its extremity a pavement of broken pillars runs up one side. The cave is the haunt of seals and sea birds. In suitable atmospheric conditions its beauty is unique. The play of colour is exquisite, the basalt combining every tint of warm red, brown and rich maroon; seaweeds and lichens paint the cave green and gold; while the lime that has filtered through has crusted the pillars here and there a pure snow-white. From the sombre roof of smooth rock or broken pillars hang yellow, crimson and white stalactites. The floor of the cave is the green sea, out of which the columns rise on either side with a regularity so perfect as to suggest the hand of man rather than the work of Nature. The murmur of the sea won for the cave a Gaelic name meaning “the Cave of Music.” At times of storm the compressed air, as it rushes out, produces a sound as of thunder.

When the sea is very smooth visitors may be rowed directly into the cave, but the more usual landing-place is near the Clamshell Cave, where the columns have been worn down until they form a kind of terrace running all the way to Fingal’s Cave. The Wishing Chair is formed out of a column that has broken short. From the causeway a ladder affords access to the summit of Staffa.

Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, better known as Fingal's Cave, was inspired by a visit to the de Fingal


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