Staffa, Scotland, UK
Staffa is a volcanic island in the Inner Hebrides, located about ten miles west of Mull. Its name comes from the Old Norse for stave, because its geological formations reminded Vikings of their buildings crafted from vertical logs. Currently unoccupied, it long ago achieved international renown for its bizarre geologic formations, and particularly for a feature known as Fingal’s Cave. The cliffs of the island at various points reveal a layer of volcanic basalt, which as it cooled fractured into extraordinary columnar colonnades. These columns possess between three and eight sides, but are predominantly hexagonal. At the island’s southern end, the columnar cliff face is rent by a large sea cave, which echoes with musical sounds as the waves enter it. This has been dubbed Fingal’s Cave, and it has attracted and inspired musical and literary celebrities for centuries, including Sir Walter Scott, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson. J.M.W. Turner was moved to paint the cave in 1830 for his London exhibition two years later, and Felix Mendelssohn was so enraptured by the sound that he composed his Hebrides Overture in its honor.