Less accessible than FIngal’s Cave and the puffin colony on Staffa but none the less intriguing and spectacular are the West Side Columns and Caves.
Visitors to Staffa should be aware that access to the shore on the West Side is not straightforward, but much can be seen from the relative ease of the fairly accessible top of the island. MacKinnon’s Cave, probably best from the sea, can also be viewed, with care, from near the summit trig point above the Great Face.
MacKinnon’s Cave was named after the abbot MacKinnon of Iona who gives his name to MacKinnon’s Cave near Gribun on Mull. MacKinnon’s Cave on Staffa joins through the back of the headland to Cormorant (also known as Scart) Cave on the Port an Fhasgaidh side.
It is to be assumed that Cormorant Cave is so called due to the numerous Shags that are prevalent there and also often seen on Sgeir an Eoin (the Bird Rock) which sits just offshore from here. We rarely see the shags larger cousin, the cormorant, in the vicinity of Staffa although it is not unheard of. They are seen more often closer inshore, around the Ferry Islands near Ulva Ferry or on Sgeir Beul a Chaolais at the south entrance to Ulva Ferry.
Although less defined than the Colonnade and the Causeway the more rugged West Side of the island is still dominated by hexagonal columnar basalt. There are a few caves too and the ‘Gunna Mor’ or Big Gun which makes the sound of a cannon or other large explosion during the right weather conditions. Very often Grey Seals are hanging about the shallows inside the west side reefs, or hauled out on the more distant skerries.