Staffa

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Back in May our friend Chris from Denver came over to visit for a couple of weeks. He had already been over before, so we tried to work things to do that he hadn’t got to see the last time.

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We decided to head up to Oban for a few days, and take a trip day-trip over to Mull, Staffa, and Iona. I’ve written about Iona previously here.

Staffa is tiny, uninhabited island off the West Coast of Scotland that is famous for its strange hexagonal shaped columns, and a formation known as ‘Fingal’s Cave’.

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The formations are similar to that found across in Ireland at the Giant’s Causeway, and the two places are thought to be linked in the mythology of how the Causeway came into existence. Legend has it that an Irish giant was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant. Realising that the Scot is much bigger than he is, his wife disguises him as a baby. When the Scottish giant sees the size of the ‘baby’, he decides he doesn’t fancy his chances and runs back to Scotland, trashing the causeway so that what he thinks must be some huge giant can’t follow him back and give him a kicking.

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Luckily there are no giants around nowadays.

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We took the wee boat out to Staffa, which takes longer than you might expect. It’s tough not to be impressed with the strange way the island has taken shape – which is visible even from afar.

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The structures are even more amazing up close though. The rocks literally are perfect hexagons, rising up like blocks to the top of the island. It’s hard to fathom how they could possibly have come around naturally – looking like somebody has deliberately designed them to be that way.

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We didn’t have too long on the island itself, as we were heading off to Iona next, so it was important to make the most of the time we had.

The ship’s crew had suggested that we go see Fingal’s cave first, and then head over to the other side of the island to see if we could catch a glimpse of some of the island’s natives – puffins that live on the edge of the rock face.

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Wisely, Jenn Donn suggested we ditch the crowd and go to see the puffins first, so we raced off the boat (ahead of all of the old folk) to see if we could spot any of the birds.

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This proved to be a good plan. Fingal’s Cave was tiny, and shuffling along the edge of the cliffs to see it behind a bunch of pensioners didn’t seem like the most appealing of ideas anyway, but it also meant we would see the puffins before they got spooked and flew away.

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…lo and behold…

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We sat down in the grass for a few minutes near the edge of the cliffs, and all of a sudden there they were – right next to us. They seemed pretty curious about why we were there, and came within touching distance, checking out what was going on.

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It was an amazing thing to see such a strange wee bird so close. They’re such an unusual shape, with large, round heads.

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For a few minutes it was extremely peaceful… taking in all of the scenery and what was going on around. It was easy to forget that we weren’t there alone.

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The puffins started to fly off… and by that I mean they seemed to dive off of the cliffs in a suicidal way before pulling up at the last second… just as the others started to appear over the crest of the hill.

We’d made a good decision to head there first.

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Staffa was probably the highlight of the few days we spent up on the West Coast – made even better as it wasn’t somewhere I’d ever really been aware of, or thought about visiting.

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It’s amazing what beautiful and remote places you can find in Scotland.

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I want to explore more of them.

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Isle of Staffa – May 2014
Lomo LC-A – expired 35mm film

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