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panoramic view of iona from above fionnphort

Iona -The Sacred Isle

Click the links for more information about: Iona Abbey | Columba | Reilig Odhran  | St. Martin's Cross | St. John's Cross | Abbey Restoration

traditional wooden sailing boat moored on IonaThe Isle of Iona lies approximately 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) off the south west coast of the island of Mull. It is 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) wide and 5.6 kilometres (3 miles) long with a resident population of approximately 125. The geology of the island consists mainly of Precambrian Lewisian gneiss with Torridonian sedimentary rocks on the eastern side and small outcrops of pink granite on the eastern beaches and is very different to the rock structure and topography of Mull. Like other places swept by ocean breezes, there are few trees with most of these being located around the parish church area. The name Iona is thought to derive from the Old Irish word for a yew tree, Eo, and although unproven, yew trees may have been here in earlier times.

Iona's highest point is Dn , (pronounced Dun E and means 'hill of Iona') is 101 metres (331 ft) above sea level, an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BC – 200 AD. The trek to the top is well worth the effort with fabulous panoramic views looking west out over many of the other Hebriean islands including Coll, Tiree, Lunga, Staffa and on a really good day Rhum, Eigg and Skye. You will also find a cairn, trig point and the 'fountain of youth' at the top where legend has it it if you wash your face in its waters you will remain eternally youthful. I have yet to be persuaded as it looks like a peat bog to me! Its geographical features include the Bay at the Back of the Ocean and Crn Cl ri irinn (the Hill/Cairn of [turning the] Back to Ireland), said to be adjacent to the beach where St. Columba first landed.

The main settlement, located at St. Ronan's Bay on the eastern side of the island, is called Baile Mr and is also knownWhite Strand of the Monks at north end of Iona looking to Burg on Mull locally as "The Village". The primary school, post office, the island's two hotels, the Bishop's House and the ruins of the Nunnery are here. The Abbey and MacLeod Centre are a short walk to the north and on your way opposite the Columba Hotel you will find the Columba Steadings, home to a number of local artisan and craft shops. Port Bn (white port) beach on the west side of the island is home to the Iona Beach Party. Iona, being small, means that it’s economic resources are limited; however, with good fertile soil in parts and unlimited riches of the sea, a reasonable living can be made. Crops are grown, animals grazed and the sea provides fish and shellfish. Much of the island's economy is now supported by tourism with day visitors to the Abbey as well as visitors staying on the island.

There are numerous offshore islets and skerries of which Eilean Annraidh (island of storm) and Eilean Chalbha (calf island) to the north, Ridh Eilean and Stac MhicMhurchaidh to the west and Eilean Msimul (mouse holm island) and Soa Island to the south are amongst the largest. The steamer Cathcart Park carrying a cargo of salt from Runcorn to Wick ran aground on Soa on 15 April 1912, the crew of 11 escaping in two boats. Soa is also the wee rocky island where John regularly fished for lobsters and on quiet sunny days often moored up on Soa to enjoy his packed lunches and take in some of the rays.

Access to Iona is via the ferry point at Fionnphort and vehicles cannot be taken across to Iona unless you are a resident of the island or you have been issued with a permit by Argyll & Bute Council. Tickets for foot passengers can be obtained from the small ticket office next to the ferry terminal waiting room or on the ferry if the ticket office is closed.

Click the links for more information about: Iona Abbey | Columba | Reilig Odhran | St. Martin's Cross | St. John's Cross | Abbey Restoration
 


Last amended 24/01/2013
2000 - 2013