The stuff of Staffa

Basalt and birds, a heady combination.  The day after we went up Beinn Talaidh, a group of Radical Ramblers set off from Iona for Staffa on the good ship Iolaire of Iona.

Our boat

Our boat

We had a helpful and informative skipper who pointed out sights and birds along the way.

Our skipper

Our skipper

We went close to a rock with shags



and another with common seals.

Grey seals

Common seals

From the boat we saw great northern divers, manx shearwater and guillemots.  Across the water were the angular basalt shapes of the Treshnish Isles, the submarine-like Dutchman’s Cap being the most prominent.  Further away were the islands of Col and Tiree.  Eastwards we looked to Mull and Ardnamurchan.

Dutchman's Cap

Dutchman’s Cap

We approached Staffa with its magnificent south face.



The basalt pillars rose above us dramatically close to the entrance to Fingal’s Cave.

Staffa 3

It’s not every day that you can land on Staffa but we were lucky.  We were allowed just over an hour, and it wasn’t long enough.  Staffa is half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, and there’s plenty to see.  It is a national nature reserve and was given to the National Trust for Scotland by a private owner, John Elliott in 1986.

At the landing stage is a fascinating rock formation, and there was a rock pipit singing from the top which seemed appropriate.

Staffa 4

Black guillemots were nesting all around.  Apparently they thrive here because there are no mink.

First we went down to Fingal’s Cave, walking in the footsteps of the pre-Victorian visitors, picking our way over the basalt rock, helped by an iron handrail.  We walked along a rock ledge into the cave.  The sound of the sea crashing and echoing was reminiscent of rutting deer.

Fingal's Cave

Fingal’s Cave

Looking back to the entrance I could see a couple of eider duck bobbing in the water.

Fingal's caveThen we returned to the landing, climbed to the top and walked to the north end of the island where the puffins were pleased to see us.  They know that people keep predators away from their nests.


On a nearby knoll a great skua (bonxie) kept watch, while a snipe drummed overhead.

Reluctantly we had to return to the boat.  I felt I had only touched the surface.



About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Birds, Radical Ramblers, Scotland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The stuff of Staffa

  1. Ash says:

    How lucky you were! It looks monumental! Here in Northern Ireland we have the Giant’s Causeway where quite literally you can walk down the road & onto the basalt columns.

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