Staffa

   STAFFA, an island, in the parish of Kilninian, district of Mull, county of Argyll. This small island, which is one of the Hebrides or Western Isles, derives its name, of Scandinavian origin, from the columnar formation of the rocks upon its coast, and which prevails also throughout nearly the whole of its interior arrangement. It is separated from the western shore of the Isle of Mull by Loch-na-Keal, and is about one mile in length and half a mile in breadth; of irregularly elliptic form; and most easily accessible on the western side, where the coast is of less precipitous height. The surface is elevated, rising in some parts to more than 200 feet above the level of the sea at ordinary tides; but, though interspersed with rugged and barren rocks, it is generally clothed with luxuriant grass, affording excellent pasture for black-cattle. Nearly in the centre of the island was formerly a rude hut, built with fragments of basaltic columns, and which, during the summer months, afforded shelter to the family of the herdsman, who had the care of the cattle, and who were its only inhabitants. When seen from a distance, the island appears like a shapeless mass of rock rising from the sea; it is only when the spectator has approached within less than a quarter of a mile of its shores, that it displays those features of romantic grandeur which have rendered it the great object of attraction to all who visit this part of the country. To the south of Staffa, from which it is separated by a channel little more than twenty yards in width, is the small island of Buachaille, of somewhat pyramidal form, and consisting of an entire mass of basaltic pillars inclining in every possible direction, though generally tending to the summit; a few have a horizontal position. Along the western coast of Staffa the basaltic columns are very irregularly arranged; in some parts extending little more than half way down the rock; in others ascending immediately from the sea, and abruptly broken or terminated before they reach the summit. Towards the south-east they rise with majestic symmetry in a lofty and magnificent range, above which the higher surface of the island towers like the massive dome of a stupendous cathedral. In many parts the columns form segments of circles; some take an obliquely vertical direction; some are perfectly horizontal, and others exhibit different degrees of curvature. All display a rich diversity of colours, some varying from a dark purple to a black, others being tinged with hues of green, orange, and yellow. On the eastern coast is the principal colonnade, called the Great Face of Staffa, which can only be seen to perfection during the morning sun, and of which the loftiest point has an elevation of 112 feet above high-water mark; it consists of three several ranges of rock, of unequal thickness, and having an inclination of nine degrees towards the east. of these, the lowest is a mass of trap-tuffa, about fifty feet thick; the middle range is of columnar formation, rising vertically from the plane of the bed on which it lies to a height of fifty-four feet above the surface of the water; and the uppermost range is an irregular mixture of small pillars and shapeless masses of basaltic rock. In front of the central range is the well-known causeway, formed of broken portions of columns which were once continuous to the height of the cliffs, presenting a great breadth of surface similar to mosaic pavement, and terminating in a point near the Cave of Fingal. Though less regular in its formation, this greatly exceeds the Giant's Causeway, Ireland, both in its dimensions and in picturesque variety. On the north coast of the island is a cavity in the rocks resembling an immense mortar, from which the waves that nearly fill it during storms are expelled by the expansion of the condensed air within, producing at intervals of nearly half a minute a report like that of a vessel firing signals of distress, and which is distinctly heard at a distance of several miles.
   The coast is indented with numerous romantic caverns, of which the most interesting are, the Cave of Fingal, the Cormorant's or Mackinnon's Cave, the Boat Cave, and the Scallop or Clamshell Cave: all of these are marked with features of picturesque beauty and impressive grandeur. The Cave of Fingal is 227 feet in length, and forty-two feet wide at the entrance, lessening gradually to a breadth of twenty feet at its furthest extremity. The entrance is by a lofty arch, 117½ feet high, from which the height of the cave by degrees diminishes to sixty feet at the opposite end; and, from the free admission of light, the whole of the interior, which resembles the inside of a vast and magnificent cathedral, is seen in all the beauty of a regular artificial structure. On each side is a lofty range of basaltic columns, supporting a massive roof partly consisting of the upper portions of pillars whose shafts have been apparently destroyed by the violence of the waves. The sea flows into the cavern to a height, at the entrance, of eighteen feet, which at the further extremity diminishes to nine feet; and during very calm weather the interior may be fully explored by a boat, which, however, the slightest agitation of the waters would destroy, by dashing it violently against the sides of the cave. In stormy weather the only means of exploring the interior is by a narrow causeway, about two feet wide, and consisting chiefly of the bases of the broken columns of which the upper portions form the roof. From this causeway, which, being constantly wet with spray, is slippery and very dangerous, is obtained a most magnificent view of the interior of this singularly picturesque and romantic cavern, of which it is scarcely possible to convey in words an adequate description. The Cormorant's or Mackinnon's Cave, though little visited, is easy of access. It is 224 feet in length, and forty-eight feet in breadth throughout its whole extent; the entrance is nearly fifty feet in height, and is crowned with a complicated arrangement of columns worn into a concave recess, which overhangs the opening. The interior of this cave, from its being formed in the lower stratum of the rock, is destitute of that columnar arrangement which adds so much beauty to the Cave of Fingal; and it has little other ornament than what it derives from the regularity and simplicity of its form. It opens on a gravelly beach on which a boat may be drawn up with perfect security.
   The Boat Cave is accessible only by sea, and is also formed in the lower stratum of the rock; it is 150 feet in length, twelve feet wide, and sixteen feet in height. The entrance is overhung by broken columns, depending from the higher stratum, and arranged in a graceful curve receding from the sides of the opening to the centre. Above this columnar arrangement the rock projects boldly towards the sea, casting over the entrance a depth of shadow which adds greatly to the impressive beauty of its appearance, by a regular succession of shades gradually softening from the darkest gloom into a cheerful light. The Scallop or Clamshell Cave, though less picturesque in its internal appearance, is of very singular formation; it is 130 feet in length, thirty feet in height, and eighteen feet wide at the entrance, and gradually diminishes in breadth towards its extremity. The interior, on one side, is a continued series of bent columns, verging towards the centre of the roof, and resembling the timbers of a ship; the opposite side is formed by the ends of broken columns, the intervals between which are filled in some places with calcareous matter resembling a honeycomb, and in others with masses of rugged rock. There are numerous other caves in different parts of the island, all possessing a higher or lower degree of interest. The columns of these caves display great variety both in form and in dimensions, varying in the number of their sides from three to nine, and in diameter from one foot to four feet and a half, though the most prevalent are pentagonal and hexagonal in shape, and about two feet in diameter. Several clusters of columns have an appearance of being quite straight and parallel, yet upon minute examination few are found to be perfectly so; and in different parts of the isle they vary greatly in their altitude, increasing on the western coast from thirty-six to fifty-four feet in height, and on the eastern, from a very inconsiderable height to an elevation of eighteen feet. Facilities of communication are afforded by steamers which ply from Oban twice a week; but they remain only for one hour, and as that time is very insufficient for a due inspection of the beauties of Staffa, visiters sometimes stay till evening, and return in one of the small Ulva boats to the Ulva inn, where tolerable accommodation is provided.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Staffa — Location …   Wikipedia

  • Staffa — Géographie Pays  Royaume Uni Archipel Hébrides intérieures Locali …   Wikipédia en Français

  • staffa (1) — {{hw}}{{staffa (1)}{{/hw}}s. f. 1 Ciascuno dei due arnesi di ferro pendenti dalla sella, nei quali il cavaliere infila o appoggia i piedi | Essere con il piede nella –s, essere pronto a partire (anche fig.) | Perdere le staffe, non avervi più i… …   Enciclopedia di italiano

  • Staffa — bezeichnet die schottische Insel Staffa den Familiennamen von Dino Staffa (1906–1977), italienischer Kurienkardinal Franz Staffa (1907–1981), österreichischer Politiker (SPÖ) Walter Staffa (* 1917), Vertriebenenfunktionär …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • STAFFA — apud Fridericum II. Imperatorem de Venat. l. 1. c. 71. Deinde ponat pedem suum in staffe sellae: Italis quoque Staffa, Gallis Sautior, stapes est, quô quis in equum tollitur; an ex Saxonico staf? baculus, cui quis innititur. Vide Io. Molinetum… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • staffa — s.f. [dal longob. staffa ]. 1. (equit.) [ciascuno dei due arnesi di metallo che pendono dai due lati della sella e che permettono al cavaliere di infilarvi il piede per montare a cavallo] ● Espressioni (con uso fig.): fam., perdere le staffe… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • Staffa — Staffa, Insel der Südlichen zur Grafschaft Argvle gehörigen Hebriden (Westküste von Schottland), am Loch Nangail, unbewohnt, nur von Fischern u. Reisenden besucht; Umfang eine Stunde, ihre buchtigen Küsten sind mit abgebrochenen Basaltsäulen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Staffa — Staffa, eine der innern Hebriden, 13 km westlich von Mull, nur 360 Hektar groß, aber berühmt wegen ihrer Basaltsäulen und Höhlen, unter denen die Fingalshöhle (s. d.) die berühmteste ist …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Staffa — Staffa, zu den Innern Hebriden gehörige Insel, 2,5 qkm, berühmt durch die Fingalshöhle (s.d.) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Staffa — Staffa, unbewohnte Felseninsel, eine der Kleinen Hebriden, mit der Fingalshöhle (s. d.) …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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