As I approached the main ferry terminal I was followed by a group of singing brownies, and just inside, was another pack of brownies, and further on in umpteen packs of brownies, in fact brownies in every direction. The entire terminal was full of excited little girls. I turned out it was the one hundredth birthday of the movement, and there were about three hundred of them off to the Isle of Mull for a group celebration, so with those, plus the tourists visiting Mull and those travelling further on to the other islands, plus some rather resigned looking locals you can imagine the amount of us on the ferry, and the general mellee for buses to take everyone in different directions once we landed on Mull
But I got to the right coach and we set off across the island. I have to say the day was another one of those grey dull ones, with the mountains, and even the valleys in some places shrouded in mist, so I saw very little of Mull, though from the glimpses I did get I would think it is a beautiful place with steeply sided valleys between magnificent mountains, and very wooded compared the to island of the Outer Hebrides, or come to that the Western Highlands, Orkney and Shetland. In fact the wooded landscape seemed quite strange, as other than the town of Oban, which I assumed had its own micro-climate, these were almost the first woods I had seen in months.
Our small boat at the other end was good and fast, and I would guess there were around twenty or more passengers, though it could have probably taken double, and I expect would at the height of the season. The trip over was quite rough, though I think I have decided I am a good sailor, and rather enjoy it when the boat rides the larger waves. It when one is in very close proximity to the water surface that I get more worried, but that is probably just not being used to boats and water, and may also hark back to one of the rare times we visited the seaside back in the fifties.
Mum had decided to take us on a trip to see the lifeboat station, which involved a long journey by rowing boat. As I mentioned before Mum was terrified of water, so I expect her horror at the experience transferred over to me in some way. Quite why she thought it was a good idea is beyond me. It was rubbish weather, and all we got to see was a lifeboat and some concrete ramps, which I am sure was very action packed when the lifeboat was being launched and the lifeboat men were rushing about shouting and hauling on ropes, but when you are about seven or eight, on grey day after nearly an hour or so of being rowed over the sea where all you could see was the waves around you, and with the same sea journey back the whole experience did not fill me with excitement. But it is obviously a memory which has stayed in the mind, albeit for reasons Mum probably did not intend.
But this day we crested the waves at speed till we reached the mouth of the cave. When weather conditions are good the boat will take you right inside the cave itself, but it was not the day for that, though we stopped at the mouth of the cave and the sound of the waves rolling into the back of the cave boomed and echoed out to us
Our little craft then rounded the headland to the small concrete steps and jetty where we were handed out, then precariously hanging onto the handrail we picked our way gingerly over the strange hexagonal black basalt rocks. I decided to be extra cautious, and was one of the few who did not actually slip over on the treacherous surface.
The track almost peters out as it reaches the mouth of the cave and you have to round the somewhat frightening corner, but there is a quite safe pathway inside if you are careful, and I sat there for a while alone after the others had turned back to seek out the puffins and their burrows high on the cliffs above the cave. Though I would have liked to see puffins close to I knew it would be very hard for me to climb the extra steep steps to the top, and then walk probably half a mile or so along the top to their nesting holes, and to be honest I really enjoyed my time alone in the cave.
I took a few little mobile phone video clips with sound, and although you can hear the waves as they crash against the rocks deep inside the cave, the almost subsonic boom which echoes round the basalt pillars and ceiling as each new wave comes in, and which is the eerie haunting noise you take away with you in your mind is lost, though I will always remember it and be pleased I went all that way to experience it.
That evening back in Oban and feeling tired I bought some Fish and Chips as another of my taste test. Standing waiting for the haddock to be fried I mentioned that I had been to Fingal's Cave that day. Quick as a flash the fryer retorted – Was he in? Probably an old one in Oban, but it made me laugh.
The cave's Gaelic name, An Uaimh Bhinn, means "the melodious cave."
But in the 18th C a Scottish poet James Macpherson translated (or more probably wrote) an epic poem Ossian - supposedly son of Finn - Fionn mac Mumhaill a legendary bard of Irish mythology who is purported to have built the Giant's Causeway between Ireland and Scotland. Macpherson rendered the name as Fingal meaning "white stranger" probably through a misapprehension of the name in old Gaelic
These poems were incredibly popular as the romatic movement got underway and the cave was renamed Fingal's Cave
Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn visited in 1829 and wrote an overture, The Hebrides, Op. 26, (also known as Fingal's Cave overture), inspired by the weird echoes in the cave which popularized the cave as a tourist destination. Other famous 19th-century visitors included author Jules Verne who used it in his book The Green Ray and mentions it in the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth; poets William Wordsworth, John Keats, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson: and Romantic artist J. M. W. Turner who painted "Staffa, Fingal's Cave" in 1832 Queen Victoria also made the trip
Sir Walter Scott described Fingal's Cave as "one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld. It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral, and running deep into the rock, eternally swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved, as it were, with ruddy marble, [it] baffles all description.