The name ‘Fingal’s Cave’ is wrapped in myth. Around 250 AD Finn MacCumhaill, or Fingal, was possibly an Irish general who had a band of faithful warriors – a Celtic parallel to King Arthur and his Round Table. Fingal is supposed to have been the father of Ossian, traditional bard of the Gaels. Gaels migrated into Scotland from Ireland until the Norsemen began their raids on the Scottish coast, and the stories of Fingal would doubtless have come across too. Soon he became revered in Scotland and, boosted by the Ossianic heroic verse and songs, his name was a natural choice to assign to this dramatic and awe inspiring cavern.The fantastic precision of Nature’s work in building up the basaltic columns on Staffa is due to the steady cooling of flows of lava as they came into contact with a colder bedrock and were exposed to the even more chilling effects of the weather of northern Scotland on the outer surfaces.
By some fluke of contraction on cooling the result is perfect, mainly hexagonal, columns. Curves in the columns were caused by the shape of the underlying rock over which the lava flowed. Sometimes close inspection of the columns reveal whitish deposits between the joints, almost as though they were cemented. In fact, this is caused by salts such as calcite which were squeezed out of the basalt by immense forces of contraction as the rock cooled. The legend, which connects the two structures, is in effect geologically correct. Both the Giant’s Causeway and Fingal’s Cave were indeed created by the same ancient lava flow, which may have, at one time formed a “bridge” between the two sites. Of course, this happened some 60 million years ago, long before people would have been around to see it. Nonetheless, the deductive reasoning of the ancient peoples formed the connection and base of the legend that the two places must be related.
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