The Island of Iona offers a Spiritual Experience

If there is one thing even better than exploring the world it is discovering magical places in your own country. Despite having grown up in Scotland I knew nothing of the magical island of Iona until I set foot on it. Island of Iona

ISLE OF IONA’ by MISHIMOTO is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Island of Iona is a tiny strip of land off the west coast of Scotland. Despite its insignificant size it played a big part in the history of Scotland. First of all, the Irish monk Columba set up a monastery here in the 6th century, which would be the religious centre of the region for centuries. It is also claimed that many ancient Scottish, Irish and Viking kings are buried here. To get here you need to take a ferry from the sleepy coastal town of Oban to the sleepier island of Mull. A quick bus trip to the other side of the island and you can hop on a short ferry trip to the positively laid back isle of Iona. Just before getting on this second ferry I can recommend the tiny second hand book shop someone has opened in their garage in this village. I picked up a copy of The Thirty Nine Steps which, for some reason, became the perfect companion on the island and is now inextricably linked to Iona in my head. Things to Do in Oban on the Way Island of Iona

Oban’ by Roy Lathwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On your way here it is recommended to spend a day or two in Oban. It is a cool little town with the most bizarre Roman style folly perched on top of it (see above picture). I decided to try a whisky in a small pub here and buy some tartan souvenirs, almost completely forgetting by this point that I had lived all of my life in this country to date. I was starting to feel like a tourist in my own country and I was loving that there were so many things to do in Oban. You can see the glorious isle of Iona right in front of you as soon as you head there on the second ferry. It is only 1 mile (2 km) by 4 miles (6 km) and counts with a population of just over 100 but it has a cultural legacy far greater than that. You may have once seen the beautiful Book of Kells, currently held in Trinity College in Dublin. This is a fantastic example of the fine religious art carried out here. As well as the ancient royals buried here, the late Labour leader John Smith also found his resting place on Iona. The graveyard is filled with Celtic crosses that have stood there for centuries and make it feel like a mystical, legendary place.

The Island of Iona – Includes joining the Sheep on the Beach

Island of Iona

Oban’ by Roy Lathwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It is a fascinating island with a lovely Abbey, deserted beaches and a peaceful, spiritual feel. Lots of pilgrims make the trip to Iona each year but when I went the only other visitors were a few Irish and Australian backpackers. Together we joined some sheep for a stroll along a beach and climbed the island’s highest point, which is a punishing 101 metres (331 ft) above sea level. There aren’t a lot of places to stay and eat here, so booking a room in advance is a good move. Once you get here you will find that it is a completely different type of travel destination from most of the popular places on the planet for travellers to see. This isn’t an action-packed destination where you will rush around to tick world famous sights off your to-do list. Instead, you will find that it is a spiritual, relaxed place to pass a couple of days and forget about the modern world for a while. Doesn’t that make it sound like the kind of place you would love to explore one day?




Iona’ images above by Roy Lathwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Island of Iona – By Robert Bell

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