At last, a long held dream came true for us this year as we made the trip to Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa!
It had long been talked about, and indeed planned for last year, but everything had to be cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. This little island just half a mile long and quarter of a mile wide lies off the west coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides near to the Isle of Mull. It is famous for its hexagonal rock columns, dramatic caves and cliffs and also by the many nesting ‘Puffin’ seabirds who colonise the cliff edges with their nesting burrows. Many famous people have visited the island over the years including Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth and composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was inspired to produce his ‘Hebrides Overture’as a result of his visit. Another large cave next to ‘Fingals’ is called ‘Mackinnon’s Cave’ said to be named after ‘Abbot Mackinnon’ of Iona. Well, this past week the McKinnon’s were back! 🙂
Ours was a day trip from Oban, sailing at 12.30pm by the Calmac ferry to Craignure on the Isle of Mull (45 minutes), where we joined a ‘Turus Mara’ mini bus group for travel across Mull to ‘Ulva ferry’ (40 minutes) before boarding the ‘Turus Mara’ boat that took us to Staffa. (40 mins)
The weather was perfect, which was a real blessing, and the boat trip to Staffa we found to be beautiful and exhilarating!
The view approaching Staffa can only be described as dramatic as you catch your first view of the sheer cliffs and rock columns. The massive size of the caves come into perspective when you spot people walking along the cliff edged shoreline path. Going ashore is not for the faint-hearted as you are immediately faced with a ladder type climb if you are going to spot the puffins, or a 10 minute walk if you are going to visit the cave! This walk takes you on a narrow path with a steep drop at places on the seaward side, and just a single handrail to assist. I was glad my wife opted to stay on board the boat to enjoy the views from the sea.
It seems each visiting group is allowed appoximately one hour ashore, so it wasn’t possible in the time allotted to wander across the top of the island to view the puffins and then visit the cave, unless you were young, fit and sure footed. But I did manage onto the top to catch the vista, before walking to the cave. However my daughter Jennifer was on Staffa with her husband recently and she kindly gave me licence to show two of her puffin shots, plus that handrail! The time passed so quickly and soon it was time to go!
Reflections: On our regular day trips around Scotland I always ask my wife ‘Where would you like to go today’? Invariably she says, ‘Oh please yourself, but somewhere near the sea’! Reminds me of the John Masefield poem we memorised as kids in primary school.
‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;”
Another great sea poem I love is found in Psalm 107:
‘Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper;the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.‘
That one reminds us of the story in the Gospels of Jesus the Son of God calming the storm! Mark 4:35-41 So whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today, it’s good to ‘put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water, put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea’, as Elvis Presley used to sing.
I wish you calm sailings, but before things get rough, remember there is a hand held out to save! Matthew 11:28-30