"CHRISTIANITY COMES TO NORTHERN BRITAIN" Top 5 Page for this destination Iona by mtncorg

Iona Travel Guide: 38 reviews and 113 photos

Iona is a small little island about a mile off the southwest coast of Mull. Because of its historical importance, Iona is one of the most visited tourist sites in Scotland. Most people come on daytrips organized out of Oban, but you can do your own daytrip using either Oban or Mull as your base to sally forth from. Or you can choose to stay on Iona, itself - there are a couple of hotels that did not seem too outrageous in their pricing. There are some b/b's and a farm hostel on the island as well as the accommodations offered by the Iona Community.

St Columba - Colum Cille in Gaelic - came from noble Irish blood from the Donegal area. Born around 521, Columba established several monasteries in Ireland before leaving the Emerald Isle for exile, possibly due to a dispute over an illegally copied book of scripture. With 12 followers, he arrived on Iona in 563. this was to be his home until his death in 597. What we know of Columba comes from legends written down many years after his death and he became a cult figure capable of knocking off miracles right and left whether it was putting the Loch Ness monster in its place by means of the Voice of God or banishing snakes ala St Patrick. Columba's main achievement was to develop a center from which mission-oriented monks could set forth throughout Scotland and northern England, spreading the Good News and established a more permanent Christian presence than had existed beforehand. This movement lasted through the 6th and 7th centuries before Viking raids attracted by gold and other items the Celtic monks gathered in, crushed the community in a series of devastating raids.

The main sites you see here on Iona do not date from Columba's time - there is only some earthen walls (vellum) that remain from then. These sites mostly date to the 13th century when an Augustinian nunnery and Benedictine monastery were established to commemorate St Columba by the Lords of the Isles. Iona became an important center for pilgrims to visit and this lasted until the storms of the Reformation which left the complex ransacked and abandoned. Iona belonged to the Macdonalds - Lords of the Isles - until the 15th century when the island became Maclean land. That was short-lived, however, as Iona along with much of Mull passed to the Campbells of Argyll with the defeat of the Royalist cause at the end of the English Civil Wars. After some starts and stops, in 1899, the Duke of Argyll donated the Abbey to the Church of Scotland and restoration work began. That work continues today in a very responsible manner.

You will also see evidence of the Iona Community, a ecumenical lay group that provides many different programs, not only here on Iona. There efforts on Iona are designed to provide retreat weeks for people in which they can recharge their spiritual beings to continue forth on life's journey.

Lastly, Iona remains a working island. There are still farms here ... cows, sheep, farmers. There are sandy beaches, if it is ever warm enough and the wind dies down. Short walks up the small hills will provide great views not only over Iona but over the rolling heath lands of the Ross of Mull and the rest of western Mull, Ben More rising above all in the eastern distance. Closer at hand, the small islands of Staffa, Gomera, Ulva and the Treshnish.

  • Last visit to Iona: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (9)

Comments (4)

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Jul 9, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    Excellent stuff. Haven't visited you for ages, hope you had a good birthday! I've just returned from the Outback. Cheers, Ian

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    The very 1st time we came up to visit Iona vistiing from NZ&Aust the weather was so bad the boats couldnt cross from Mull and we could only look over that patch of water!But made it for an xlnt visit including Staffa a few yrs later.

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2009 at 6:01 AM

    Excellent page on this historic site, the place of pilgrimage and burial ground of so many 'celebrities' of ancient and more recent times.

  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2007 at 2:58 PM

    We should've said prayers to St. Columba when two rattlesnakes showed up next to our trash cans (and led to my son saying he was exempted from taking cans out to the curb). Great photos - quintessential Scotland - and good history lesson.


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