Many, many moons ago, back when my reading days revolved around the works of Enid Blyton and her Adventure series (probably a series that sparked the urge within me to see more of the world at large), one such story stuck in my mind; The Sea of Adventure. The tale goes on to tell the story of kidnapping and rescue set amongst the Scottish islands of the Western Isles, and I now suspect those isles may have included the Treshnish Isle, and the main island of Lunga. Why? Because of the puffin colonies there.
We set off from Fionnphort on one of the vessals run by Staffa Tours on their ‘Wildlife Tour‘ that would take us on a 5 hour tour to the Treshnish Isles, with a landing and bird-watching on the island of Lunga, before coming back via Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa. We were hoping to see some dolphins, porpoises or minke whales, but unfortunately none came out, so we had to contend that with knowing we would definitely see lots of birds, specifically…
Lots, and lots of puffins! One of my all time favourite birds, and of course the childhood memories of Philip and his two overly curious and friendly puffin-pals, Huffin and Puffin don’t half help that affection. To say I was looking forward to this boat trip would have to be the understatement of the century! An hour and a half sailing to Treshnish and the boat moors to a pontoon to disembark before the pontoon is pulled into the shore of Lunga so you can get onto land. Once you pick your way through the rocks, you can wander the island, and we did, for 2 hours! If you’re thinking of going, can I suggest you pack a good wind-breaker jacket, the winds up on the hill can be fierce! You may also want to wear sturdy hiking boots, as the ground can be a little uneven in places, together with the rabbit burrows (where the puffins live) make it a touch dangerous – because of this, keep well back from the edge of the cliffs, it’s a LONG way down!
After eating our lunch in some heather, watching a pair of guys filming/photographing the puffins – we think we heard them discussing it with the captain of the boat, some sort of documentary. It was a little worrying seeing how close to both the birds, and the edge of the cliffs, some of the people were getting; seemingly ignorant of the slip/trip/fall hazards that they were entering. Not to mention, trampling around on rabbit warrens, which may or may not have puffins in them!
Once we’d worked our way back down to where the majority of the birds were, our vantage point improved drastically, to the extent that we could see so much more of the other birds, gulls and razorbills mostly, that inhabited the sheer cliffs. It was mindblowing to seem all the birds just throwing themselves off these cliffs and flying away. Or in the case of the puffins, dive effortlessly down into the blue depths, only to emerge with mouthfuls of fish moments later. Incredible! To see a video of it, click here.
When our time was up, the pontoon returned and we boarded the boat again, our destination this time: Staffa and Fingal’s Cave! When I was growing up, I had a dear friend who encouraged me to listen to classical music, a regular treat on a Wednesday afternoon. Most of it I wasn’t too keen on, but I remember hearing Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Overture and being spellbound by it. Now, to be able to travel to Staffa, to climb around the rocky basalt columns and go into Fingal’s Cave, was simply amazing. Something I wish I could have told that friend about, sadly though he’d passed away a few years before. Entering the cave can be a little daunting, the wind, if gusting, is unnerving. However, there are handrails, and the rocks are not that slippery, so if you’re game, go for it. You won’t regret it. There’s a little bit of footage of the waves eddying here.
Other than the incredible and inspiring cave, there are some truly spectacular basalt formations on Staffa itself. Make the most of the hour stop and have a good wander! Personally I was entranced by the nearby outcrop and the way the formations rose and twisted into the air, my mind just couldn’t let go of imagining the force that must have been exerted to form these columns.
The trip back to Iona was much, much quicker from Staffa, and thankfully for me, less of the barrel rolling type waves that made me rather nauseous on the first leg of our tour. I’ve only ever been seasick once before, on a crossing in New Zealand, so thankfully I had some clue how to combat it. It was still quite bad, and I was grateful of the fresh air on Lunga regardless. This quick trip though spared me that roiling feeling, so when the boat docked briefly at Iona, we decided to jump off anyway and have another exploratory walk around. Specifically we wanted to go to the small museum, and get something to eat and drink. There’s a small cafe at the back of the museum, and we’d highly recommend the cheese sandwich and soup! On our way back to the ferry crossing to Fionnphort we stopped to inspect the MacLean cross, as our trip over the other day had missed it. I have to say, the Crois Mhicilleathain (MacLean’s Cross) is my personal favourite of the High Crosses on Iona, the carving is just spectacular, and as it has a front and back carving, there’s twice as much to love about it!
The return ferry trip to Fionnphort was lovely, and somewhat funny as we spotted a piece of local art that we’ve never seen before. If you’re in the area, see if you can spot the blue dog. Night all!