ATLAS OBSCURA

Fingal’s Cave - Staffa, Scotland

Queen Victoria, Matthew Barney, Jules Verne, and Pink Floyd are not names you usually hear in the same sentence, but then the place that they all share is itself quite uncommon. Known as Fingal’s Cave, it bears a history and geology unlike any other cave in the world.

Seventy-two feet tall, two-hundred-seventy feet deep, what makes this sea cave so visually astoundingly is the hexagonal columns of basalt, neat six-sided pillars that make up its interior walls.

A well-known wonder of the ancient Irish and Scottish celtic people, it was the source of legends. Known to the celts as Uamh-Binn or “The Cave of Melody,” one Irish legend in particular explained the existence of the cave as well as that of the similar Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. As both are made of the same neat basalt columns, the legend holds that they were the end pieces of a bridge built by the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (a.k.a. Finn McCool) to Scotland where he was to fight Benandonner, his gigantic Scottish rival.

Best yet: The legend, which connects the two structures, is in effect geologically correct. Both the Giant’s Causeway and Fingal’s Cave were indeed created by the same ancient lava flow, which may have at one time formed a “bridge” between the two sites!

But what do Queen Victoria, Pink Flloyd, etc. have to do with Fingal’s Cave? Keep reading… you know you want to find out!