If you are staying on Mull, you should not miss out on the opportunity of exploring the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave! In fact, you could step foot on the three isles in one day; Mull, Iona and Staffa, as the trio are best seen together.
The world-renowned island of Staffa is only an amusing boat ride away from Tobermory, Iona, Ulva or Fionnphort on Mull. There, nature’s creativity can truly be marvelled as you listen to the acoustics of Fingal’s Cave and enjoy a puffin-spotting picnic above the unique hexagonal columns of basalt rock. It’s all very impressive; from the boat trip, the first sighting of the awe-inspiring Fingal’s cave and beyond!
Table of Contents
Run out of time? Pin this blog for later.
The Staffa Island Guide
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask using the comments section below…
Where is the Isle of Staffa?
Staffa is a tiny, uninhabited island off the west coast of Mull. It’s located within the Inner Hebrides of the Scottish Highlands.
What is the history of the island?
Staffa is an island of hexagonal basalt rock columns that were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions that spread lava into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, they are similar to the Giant’s Causeway on Northern Island. After constant wave erosion over the centuries, the magnificent Fingal’s Cave was formed.
The island was a true hidden gem until naturalist Sir Joseph Banks called attention to the beauty in 1722. Thereafter, Staffa was a well-admired destination after becoming a poet’s muse and being visited by the author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson.
This entry from Queen Victoria’s journal described her experience in 1847.
“As we rounded the point, the wonderful basaltic formation came in sight. The appearance it presents is most extraordinary; and when we turned the corner to go into the renowned Fingal’s Cave, the effect was splendid, like a great entrance into a vaulted hall: it looked almost awful as we entered, and the barge heaved up and down on the swell of the sea. The rocks, under water, were all colours – pink, blue and green – which had a most beautiful and varied effect. It was the first time the British standard with a Queen of Great Britain, and her husband and children, had ever entered Fingal’s Cave, and the men gave three cheers, which sounded very impressive there…”Queen Victoria
The island was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1973.
Who owns the Isle of Staffa?
The National Trust for Scotland was gifted the Isle of Staffa by John Elliott, Jr, of New York in 1986. The island proceeded to become a designated National Nature Reserve in 2001.
How do you get to Staffa island?
The various Staffa tour operating companies are well-advertised in Oban, Iona and Mull, although you should book in advance to avoid disappointment. Tours are typically in operation between April and September.
How long is the boat trip to Staffa?
The journey to Staffa Island will take approximately one hour from Fionnphort and Iona. If you are departing from Tobermory, the boat ride will take 1.5 hours instead.
The waters around the Isle of Mull are rich in marine life. Therefore, sightings of cetaceans are common along the journey to the Isle of Staffa but the likeliness depends on the time of year. Look out for minke whales, basking sharks and even orcas in the warmer months, with, of course, dolphins, porpoises and seals too.
Note that poor weather conditions may prevent access to the island. In this unlikely event, visitors will be on the boat for longer without being awarded the opportunity of stretching their legs on the island.
Passengers of the boat tours are given one hour to explore the island at their own leisure. It is recommended that the time is split between admiring Fingal’s Cave and puffin-spotting on the north of the island.
What should you pack for Staffa?
There are a few items that you mustn’t forget to pack for a day trip to the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. These include:
🥾 Appropriate Footwear – Visitors are required to hop from the boat onto the pontoon. In addition, the island is covered with long, and often slippy wet grass. Therefore, visitors are reminded to wear sturdy, grippy and ideally waterproof shoes.
👀 Binoculars – Binoculars are recommended, especially if you are keen to observe the wildlife on both the faraway land and sea. Puffins do tend to be visible to the naked eye, but their beaks are mesmerising upon a closer look. If you are extra lucky, all of the above will be within much closer proximity. So much so, that binoculars will not be essential.
🧥 Waterproof Jacket – Don’t be caught out; take a waterproof jacket! The tour boats have areas in which visitors can ride inside or outside, but the island does not have any purpose-built shelters.
🍪 Water & Snacks – There is nothing on the Isle of Staffa; no toilet facilities, no shop and no shelter. Whatever you may require, take it with you. At the very least, you should pack a bottle of water.
Staffa’s tour companies allow visitors to leave their belongings on their boats whilst they explore the island. However, you should be aware that there is often more than one vessel so you may not be reunited with your belongings until you return to Iona or Mull.
NOTE: Drones are not permitted on the Isle of Staffa
When can you see puffins on Staffa?
During spring and early summer, the grassy slopes and high cliffs are dominated by hundreds and thousands of seabirds; Staffa Island also hosts its very own colony of puffins!
Like Handa Island, a large colony of puffins breed on Staffa, thus being a common favourite amongst visitors who make the journey especially for the cute and colourful species. The best time to see puffins on Staffa Island is during the breeding season between the beginning of May and the start of August.
There is often a seasonal ranger positioned at the mouth of Fingal’s Cave. They will be able to answer any specific questions you may have about the island, including the most recent sightings and puffin locations.
It is also likely that visitors will spot gannets, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and great skuas.
Ready for other Scottish Island adventures? Check out…
- Your Complete Guide to Handa Island
- Isle of Rum Island Guide
- Isle of Canna: Everything You Need To Know
- The Outer Hebrides Island-Hopping Guide
- Visit Lewis & Harris (The Island Road Trip)
Scottish Highlands Google Map Legend
This Google Map Legend showcases 140+ need-to-know coordinates within our bonnie Scottish Highlands & Islands:
- Awesome Wild Camping Park-Ups
- Best Walks, Viewpoints, Beaches
- Bucket List Locations
- Accessible Showers & Fresh Water Taps
- Relevant Links to Online Travel Guides
Save For Later
Run out of time? Click on the ‘PIN‘ button to save this article.