The sound of puffins,
shags, cormorants and other sea birds woke them up. Birds nested and lived
on the cliffs. Leith rolled onto his stomach. “I’m hungry.”
Sandy smirked. “You can always eat seaweed. Some of
those birds use seaweed to make their nests. Imagine the stink!”
“We can eat raw puffins with their feathers,” Fraser
“No thanks. I’ll pass. The tide is out. We can walk
down to the cave, if this is indeed Staffa. Do you still think it is?”
Paisley had rolled away from Leith the moment she’d opened her eyes.
“I know it is. We need to go to Fingal’s Cave.” Leith
tucked in his shirt.
“Fingal’s Cave? Is that where we are? We learned about
it in class a week or two before you came to the school,” Sandy said.
“Don’t tell us anything about it yet. We can talk when
we’re inside the cave. It’s safe, isn’t it?” Duncan turned to Leith.
“As long as the tide is out, it’s safe. We’ll have to
hike down the stairway,” Sandy said. “Murray and I were there last night.
There’s a rail and steps.”
They clambered down the concrete to the bottom of the
cliff. A handrail led the way to the columns. There were warning signs for
less agile climbers. Without speaking to each other, they carefully made
their way toward the cavern. Birds swooped at the waves and flew up with
fish in their bills.
“Isn’t that Iona?” Sandy pointed to another island.
“It looks like the abbey.”
“It is,” Duncan said. “That’s cool. That was our
starting place. Here we are at our ninth stop and in view of our first. It
seems like ages ago we were there and yet it was only a little more than a
“Time is that way; it flies,” Paisley said. “We’re
They entered the cave, having to climb on a ledge of
columns. Both Fraser and Paisley turned on their flashlights so they could
see. “This is sort of scary. If we slip, we’ll fall into the water and I
don’t think there’s any chance of being rescued.” Paisley grasped the
“It goes quite a ways back, but it’s not that wide.”
Murray looked at the roof. “That doesn’t look too stable. It’s only
“And pieces of broken pillars. It’s amazing how it
arches.” Fraser used his finger to show the arch shape.
“Come to the back,” Leith called. “It sounds weird.”
The waves echoed. “It sounds like the pillars have
heartbeats. Boom! Boom! Boom!” Duncan sat on a column, dangling his legs
over the edge. “Who named this place Fingal’s Cave and who is Fingal?”
“Sandy, why don’t you tell him, since you just learned
about it in class,” Leith said.
“I’ll give it a try. It’s another one of those
legends. There was this Irish leader, a warrior, named Finn MacCumhaill.
He was better known as Fingal. This was about 250 A.D. He had a son named
Ossian, who was a Gaelic poet. Ossian wrote stories, ballads, poems and
songs about what a hero his father was. Sometimes he sang them. Some of
the Gaelic people left Ireland and moved to Scotland. All these songs and
poems made Fingal sound so mysterious and heroic that they named this cave
“Good job, Sandy. Do you have anything to add,
Fraser?” Leith slapped Sandy lightly on the back.
“No. Sandy said it all. What do we have to take back?”
“I’d say one of these columns, but I think we’ll have
to be content to take back a chunk of one.” Leith searched for a decent
sized piece. “Here’s a good one.” He shoved it into his pocket. “Did you
get your seashell and stone, Murray?”
“A handful of them.” Murray pulled a few out and held
them in his palm for the others to see.
“What about a puffin feather?” Paisley stood on one of
the columns. “I saw hundreds of puffins.”
“Good idea. We should head back now. We’ve been in
here for a couple of hours. The tide will come in soon and I don’t want to
be stuck here.” Leith moved toward the entrance. They made their way along
the path and back up the steps. Several feathers lay on the grass atop.
“Found a few. Let’s get back.”
They ran into the tunnel and climbed out onto the turf
around the Pictish cross. “It’s the early hours of Monday morning. That
means work. At least I don’t have to go to Detention any more, though it
wasn’t that bad.” Leith took a deep breath. “It’s hard to think we were
somewhere else and it was daylight and it’s still midnight here.” They
walked Paisley down to the beach and waited until she went around the bend
in the rowboat before heading back to school.