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Iona

Scotland's spiritual island

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A short ferry (hourly; £4) journey through sparkling turquoise waters from the southwest tip of Mull, the emerald island of Iona has been a place of great spirituality for about 1400 years.

It’s to Iona that Irish solider and missionary St Columba came in 563 to establish a monastery and spread a brand of Celtic Christianity which successfully colonised much of Northern Britain.

Most evidence of these times is now long gone on the island, but a spiritual atmosphere remains – at least after its many day visitors have gone. That’s really the time to appreciate the place, but book your accommodation well in advance since it’s scarce and popular.

The small island (three miles long by a mile wide) also has some basic services by the ferry terminal – including a post office, small grocery store, bike rental and a few art and craft shops.

Island attractions include:

  • Iona Heritage Centre (Apr–Oct Mon–Sat 10.30am–5.15pm; Adults £2). Island history museum with great baked goods in its coffee shop.
  • Reilig Oran Ancient cemetery with the graves of 48 early Scottish kings, including Macbeth.
  • Iona Abbey (Daily: Apr-Sep 9.30am- 5.30pm; Oct-Mar 10am-4pm; Adults £7.10). Restored Medieval abbey with many lovely Romanesque and early Gothic features and dozens of ornate medieval grave slabs and even some modern religious sculptures.
  • St John’s Cross The huge intricately carved St John’s Cross has become a real symbol of Iona; a replica stands outside the abbey; the 8th-century original is in the abbey’s Infirmary Museum with other fine early Christian and medieval carvings.
  • Beaches The northern tip of the Island has a lovely sandy beach, while pretty pebble beaches and bays dot the western side and southern side – the latter’s where St Columba is said to have landed.

Accommodation & Food

Accommodation options include the Iona Hostel (+441681/700781; Lagandorain; dorms £21); and the Argyll Hotel (+441681/700334; Baile Mor; doubles £85) which also has a restaurant serving island produce. The Iona Community, is a flourishing ecumenical spiritual community which holds regular courses and retreats and offers accommodation – with prices dependent on the length of stay.


At A Glance

Address:
Iona
UK
Price:
n/a

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