Staffa, Scotland, UK
The tiny island of Staffa, part of the Inner Hebrides, is celebrated for its stunning geology. Vikings named it Stafyi-øy meaning ‘stave island,’ as its rock formations reminded them of the vertically placed logs used to construct their houses. Staffa is made up completely of hexagonal columnar basalt. Sixty-five million years ago, erupting lava cooled quickly, forming these distinctive shapes. Hexagons are most often associated with honeycombs in beehives, however, they are also characteristic in volcanic formations. Over time, a weakness in the rock was eroded by fierce Atlantic waves, creating legendary Fingal’s Cave. It was once known as ‘The Musical Cave’ for the wonderful sounds of the sea water reverberating against the sides of its large cavern.
The island was first promoted by Sir Joseph Banks, who was Captain James Cook’s naturalist in 1772. In the 19th century, Jules Verne, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the artist JMW Turner and 19-year old Felix Mendelssohn also visited Staffa.