Fingal's Cave. Island in United Kingdom, Europe

Fingal's Cave

Island in United Kingdom, Europe

Fingal's Cave Photo © Eddie Austrums

Fingal's Cave

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Fingal's Cave, also known as Uamh-Binn (Cave of Melody), is a sea cave on the western coast of the Isle of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is part of a National Nature Reserve which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Staffa itself is mostly uninhabited, but Fingal's Cave is open to the public. The cave has an interesting mythological and formational history linked to that of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Fingal's cave was given its name by James Macpherson, a Scottish poet and historian, in the 18th century after the hero of one of his epic poems.

Formation

Fingal's Cave was created from a volcanic eruption during the Paleocene Period some 50-60 million years ago. During this time, the Isle of Staffa was full of volcanic activity and as the molten basalt met with the chalk beds and the lava began to cool, it contracted and split much like when mud dries and cracks. The cracks spreads down towards the center of the flow and eventually created the basalt hexagonal pillars that are seen today.

Fingal's Cave

History

Fingal's Cave first became known to the English-speaking world by Sir Joseph Banks (Wikipedia Article), in 1772. The cave garnered its name from Joseph Macpherson, whom named it after the hero from his Ossian cycle of poems. These poems were based on old Scottish-Gaelic poems, and in Irish mythology, Fingal is known as Fionn mac Cumhaill. It is speculated that Macpherson misunderstood the name from the old Gaelic and wrote it as Fingal instead of Finn.

Mythology

The old Irish Legend believes that the steps were created by a giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fionn was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant, Benandonner. The fight was accepted and Fionn mac Cumhail built the causeway across the ocean so that the two could meet. From here, the story begins to vary some. There is one tale where Fionn defeats Benandonner and another where Fionn disguises himself as an infant and Benandonner is tricked into believing that if Fionn is an infant then his father must be the largest giant of all giants and he flees in fear. As Benandonner dashes across the basalt columns back to Scotland, they are destroyed leaving the remaining in Northern Ireland. The matching set is known as The Giant's Causeway on Northern Ireland's coast.

Seeing Fingal's Cave

The cave's entrance is a large arch which allows sea water to pass through, so the best option for seeing Fingal's Cave is a local sightseeing cruise that runs from April to September. However, if you visit at another time during the year, it is possible to view the cave on foot. Hike to the cave overland and you will find a row of the basalt columns that form a walkway above the high-water level which allows the cave to be entered on foot. Watch you step as the columns can become quite slippery when wet.

Nearby Sights

Puffin
Puffin
Photo by Paul Wordingham

On the Isle of Staffa, the main sight will be Fingal's Cave. However, the island is the perfect place to spot the local puffins. During the months of March and April, over a million puffins flock to the Scottish Hebrides to make their nests and hatch their young. This is the opportune time to catch them with their trademark bright orange bill as they only turn this color during mating season.

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Author: ashley.minor. Last updated: Aug 04, 2014

Pictures of Fingal's Cave

Fingal's Cave
Fingal's Cave. Photo by Joe Cornish Gallery

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