It has lured countless travellers after being “rediscovered” by British explorer and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks in 1772.

Located on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides, the cathedral-like Fingal’s Cave is considered to be one of the most spectacular sea caves in the world.

Formed over 50 million years ago and carved from the same basalt columns that shaped the Giants Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the cave is 72-feet tall and 207-feet deep. 

Famous visitors who have marvelled at the geological wonder, the most impressive of over a dozen caves around the edges of Staffa, include Queen Victoria; Lord Tennyson; Sir Walter Scott; Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Keats.

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The cave’s extraordinary natural acoustics, which earned it the Gaelic name “Uamh-Binn”, meaning “cave of melody”, also made a huge impression on German composer Mendelssohn, giving rise to his “Hebrides Overture”, which helped popularise it as a tourist destination.

Now visitors can once again follow in their famous footsteps to visit the cave after “critical” repairs were carried out to the concrete walkway which provides entry to the cave.

It means the famous cave is now accessible on foot again following storm damage sustained last winter. 

It comes after access to Fingal’s Cave was restricted for a lengthy period of time after extreme weather destroyed part of the walkway in early 2018. 

The walkway repair work forms part of an ambitious £1.6 million, 18-month-long conservation project to replace and improve the main visitor infrastructure on the world-famous Staffa National Nature Reserve, which has been in the care of The National Trust for Scotland in 1986.

In October last year, the first phase of work to improve access infrastructure was completed, focusing on footpath restoration and erosion control on the top of the island.

A “small but hardy” team of footpath contractors from Arran Footpaths & Forestry carried out the works and camped on the island for over two weeks, shifting heavy rocks to make stone drains and steps, and barrowing stone chips to make a more durable surface.

The works are part of an extensive programme to protect the Inner Hebrides wonder for the wildlife that call Staffa home as well as to enable the estimated 100,000 people that visit each year to see the landmark island’s basalt rock columns, Fingal’s Cave, and seabird colonies.

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Staffa will remain open for visits until mid-August 2023, when construction works, focusing on the boat landing area, are planned to resume after the seabird breeding season is over. 

As a result, the island will not be accessible from mid-August until October 2023 while the works are underway.

Further works will be carried out in 2024 on the staircase, although The National Trust for Scotland said that the timescales are still being finalised.

Will Boyd-Wallis, National Trust for Scotland Operations Manager for West Highlands said: “Following the storm damage that occurred last winter, the majority of repairs to the steps leading into Fingal’s Cave have been carried out. 

“There is still some follow on finishing work to be completed, but I’m pleased to say that visitors can once again access the cave on foot.

“A range of further works are due to take place after seabird breeding season. The boat landing area is to be widened and next year we aim to replace the staircase up to the top of the island.

“These measures will improve safety and the flow of visitors and help people experience all the wonders that Staffa has to offer.”

To cover the cost of the project, the National Trust for Scotland has secured support from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF), administered by Argyll and Bute Council, who are contributing almost £500,000 to the first phase of the work on the landing jetty. 

The Trust are also fundraising to try to cover the costs of the “very challenging” project. 

Mr Boyd-Wallis added: “It is a joy and a privilege to look after Staffa but as a charity, we can only continue to enable access and conserve the wonders of the island with the support of local boat operators, donors and National Trust for Scotland members.”