Welcome To My World of Pedals and Paddles

An account of my Sea Kayaking and Mountain Biking exploits

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Staffa and Fingals Cave

Staffa or Pillar Island, using its Norse translation, is a small island situated approximately 10km off the west coast of Mull. It is one of the Treshnish Isles which form part of the Inner Hebrides. Staffa is world famous for its volcanic Basalt rock columns and the numerous spectacular caves around its coast line. The most famous cave being Fingals Cave.
This island should be on any self respecting sea kayakers tick list.

We chose to launch from Ulva Ferry one of the places we whizzed past on our cycle ride the day before.

Boat trips leave Ulva Ferry for visits to the Treshnish Isles and Staffa. Parking is limited so we dropped the boats off near the slip and parked further up the road so as to not upset the locals.

The Boathouse on Ulva is a licensed tea room with a lovely sea food menu which includes local oysters.

The ferry takes visitors over to Ulva a delightful looking island which is privately owned and a nature reserve with hundreds of birds plus deer and otters.

The paddle out of the sound gave us some of the best views yet.

Once out of the Sound of Ulva we proceeded along the South shore of the island along Loch na Keall. On the way we passed the obligatory fish farm.

The views over to Ben More were stunning.

We stopped for a brew stop on Little Colonsay a little island at the entrance to the Loch. Amazingly there is a house built on the island which must be a lovely place to hide away for a while. There were no beaches on the island which gave for an interesting launch and landing.

The south side of Little Colonsay is littered with small caves and blow holes.

We left the shelter of Loch na Keall and from the lee of Little Colonsay we got our first view of the crossing to Staffa. The conditions were a little lumpy with a stiff north wind but nothing to worry about so we set off.

All the way across we could see the other Treshnish Islands around us. Geometra to the north and Lunga in the distance.

The impressive looking Dutchmans Cap.

About 45mins later we were nearly across and being caught up by the Ulva Ferry tour boat Tarus Mor.

Staffa covers 33 hectares and is 42m high at its highest point. The island is owned by the National Trust  for Scotland. There is a small sheltered quay on the East side and it is here that the tour boats land.

On the west side and south west corner the basalt columns tower above the sea.

There are several large caves on the south west corner the most impressive, although not the deepest, is Fingals Cave.

The cave is named after the Irish warrior with the cool name of Fionn MacCool who it said built the Giants Causeway in Northen Ireland which has the same rock features.

Conditions were perfect, we managed right up to the back wall.

We made the most of the photo opportunity along with all the other boat trippers.

The main rock feature is known as The Colonade or Great Face.

The Gaelic name for Fingals Cave is An Uamh Bhin - The Melodius Cave. It was the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn to compose his Hebridean Overture which premiered in London in 1832. Famous visitors to the cave have included Queen Victoria who like us entered the cave by boat.

We landed for a leg stretch and brew near  to the quay and then explored the area around the unique rocky outcrop of Am Buachhaille.

All too soon it was time to head back cross to Mull.

The south shore of Ulva is littered with numerous small islands and white sandy beaches which are well worth exploring.

The rock columns protrude from the ground like organ pipes.

We landed back at Ulva Ferry some five hours later a  site seeing trip of some 22 miles

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