Day 10 |
May 28, 2012

Staffa and Iona, Inner Hebrides, Scotland 

By Kara Weller, Naturalist and Zodiac driver

Co-ordinates: 56° 25 ’ N – 06° 19’ W
Weather: sunny
Air temperature: 17° C
Wind: 10 km per hour
Pressure: 1015 hPa
Humidity: 61%

It was hard to believe that after the last few days of sunshine we would be treated to yet another perfect day, but we were. Early in the morning when the sun rose, it illuminated a glassy calm flat sea. Not a ripple stirred the surface of this often windy and wild stretch of islands and coast on the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, and not a cloud marred the perfectly clear sky.

Another early morning had us out in the Zodiacs shortly after breakfast to start a cruise of Staffa Island. This geologically remarkable island is similar in structure to the Giant’s Causeway from yesterday. Basaltic columns decorated all sides of this island and rose in steep projectiles, sometimes sloping at strange angles to give the landscape a fascinating and somewhat unusual appearance.

A few caves lay on one side of the island and our maneuverable Zodiacs were able to drive right inside all three of them to admire the strange rock formations. Fingal’s Cave – made famous by Mendelssohn with his beautiful classic piece of music The Hebridean Overture, more commonly known as Fingal’s Cave Overture – was the highlight. It was like entering a majestic cathedral with elegant columns on all sides and a roof, splendid in its grandness and grace. Mendelssohn was inspired by the sounds produced by the water moving around inside the cave and managed to capture the power, beauty, loneliness and solitude of the island and cave in his work of music.

Puffins were spotted swimming in rafts in the water just off to one side of the island much to the delight of everyone. Nobody can resist the friendly and somewhat comical appearance of these charming birds, and as slowly and quietly as they could, our Zodiacs crept up to small groups of them to get close-up photos.

Everyone had the opportunity to land on the island after their Zodiac cruises. A few steep stone steps led quickly up to the top of the island and then the grassy fields spread out and invited us to wander in any direction. The views down onto the water were interesting with zodiacs and other visiting kayakers and yachtsmen exploring the basalt caves. Even better were the endless vistas onto other islands in the distance – the whole of the Hebrides seemed to stretch out to the horizon, all covered by a bright blue sky and sunshine.

Reluctantly we returned to the ship where Imogen gave another wonderful lecture on Illuminated Manuscripts to illuminate our brains with further knowledge.

Then it was back out onto the Zodiacs right after breakfast for a visit to the island of Iona. This famous island was visited by St Columba from Ireland in 563 AD. Early Christianity spread through Northern Britain from this remote island community and we could visit the fascinating Abbey – one of Scotland’s most sacred and historical sites.

Imogen gave tours of this fascinating spot all afternoon, while Chris and Hans-Peter offered natural history walks, and Ray took people on a special photography walk. Some chose to roam around the small village settled around the Abbey on their own and everyone enjoyed the hot sunshine and beautiful calm conditions. The peace and quiet on shore in this little lovely place was delightful. It could not have been a better day.