Staffa National Nature Reserve – Shrouded in Mystery
Standing out of the ocean, measuring just a half mile in length and a quarter mile in width, is the remarkable Staffa. This unique habitat has been declared the Staffa National Nature Reserve and is an important site for nesting seabirds, including the fascinating puffin. Indeed, Staffa has been an object of interest for many years with famous individuals such as Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scot, Lord Tennyson, JMW Turner and others visiting its intriguing natural wonders.
What draws so many to Staffa National Nature Reserve? The structure of Staffa itself is a masterpiece. Stunning six-sided columns have been etched out of basalt rock as has the renowned Fingal’s Cave. An uninhabited land of wonder, you can’t help but to want to explore Staffa’s An Uamh Binn or Fingal’s Cave. In fact, Staffa has found itself in the middle of a giant legend. Scottish legend tells us the the Gaelic giant Fingal was having a fight with an Ulster giant. The Ulster giant decided to build a causeway between Scotland and Ireland so as to end the argument once and for all. Eventually the causeway was destroyed with remnants at Giant’s Causeway and Staffa.
Although Staffa may feature in legends, it has also featured in history books. It may not be inhabited now, but evidence of stone structures and agriculture show that at one time people did make use of the land. Many believe that the name of “Staffa” was originally a Old Norse word that was translated “wooden building staves”. Staffa and Fingal’s Cave truly came to the fore in 1772 when Joseph Banks, a botanist, wrote about the amazing landscape. In no time at all Staffa became a popular attraction. It soon gained international acclaim in the Hebrides overture (Fingal’s Cave) written by Felix Mendelssohn following a visit to the cave.
Staffa is managed by The National Trust for Scotland and was named a National Nature Reserve in 2001. Staffa National Nature Reserve is a popular nesting spot for a variety of sea birds such as puffins, gulls, shags and kittiwakes. Not only does Staffa afford the birds protection, but the seas surrounding it offer an abundance of food. Visitors to the Staffa NNR will certainly want to watch out for pilot whales, dolphins and porpoises gliding through the waters. Botany enthusiasts can look for wild thyme, white-flowered brookweed, bird’s foot trefoil and other vegetation.
The ideal time to visit Staffa National Nature Reserve is in spring and summer. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes with good grip as much of the terrain is slippery. Tour boats which leave from Mull will be able to carry you to Staffa and so your adventure will begin.