Small adventures in the Scottish Inner Hebrides…
Some of my favourite memories are of my days on Iona one July where we were staying for a week at a friends place. We had our 1 year old with us who was delighting in guddling in the shallow island waters and playing in the white sand.
For several days we were blessed by glorious sunshine and only a few midgies in the evenings.
The beauty of these subtly coloured rocks contrast wonderfully with the iconic white sands, green machair and turquoise sea of Iona.
The geology here is beautiful – predominantly Lewisian Gneiss (over 2000 million years old) and altered sedimentary rocks known as the ‘Iona Group’, which are about 1000 million years old.
On the most beautiful Scottish day I was treated to a magical journey to Staffa. I was 5 months pregnant with my second child as I perched on the back of the boat bouncing over the blue water from Iona pier north towards Staffa.
Not only were the weather gods being particularly benevolent that day but Scotland pulled out all of the stops in terms of natural wonders as well. As we drew closer to Staffa we were joined by a large pod of Dolphins who regularly breached and raced with us as we bounced along. I think my heart was leaping as high as they were.
The approach to Staffa by sea is truly breathtaking, with great basalt columns flanking the deep caves. The dolphins continued to breach as we landed and I explored the natural wonders of Fingal’s Cave and Clamshell Cave where the columns are intricately curved and distorted.
Although Fingal’s cave is very atmospheric my personal favourite element of Staffa is the small island Am Buachaille (The Herdsman) which sits a few meters offshore and is entirely made from the basalt columns. Here the pillars are especially impressive. The curve of the basaltic columns are flowing and dynamic and inspired my Staffa Basalt Pin. During low tide it is most beautiful when the different rock colours and lichens are revealed.
If you are planning a trip to Staffa you should keep an eye out for cetaceans on the crossing – As well as dolphins, porpoises and minke whales are often seen during the warmer months. Once you land you can visit the large colony of puffins which breed on Staffa every summer and congregate on the cliffs during their breeding season between the start of May and the start of August; this is when the birds have their distinctive colourful beaks. The puffins here are used to visitors and are very tolerant of people so it’s possible to get quite close to them.
Boat excursions to the island start from Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull and also leave regularly from the Iona pier.