Isle of Iona
Iona is a small island - barely three miles long and a little over a mile wide - but its importance to Christianity is out of all proportion to its size.
Local Sights & Activities for Isle of Iona
On the west coast are some lovely beaches of white sand and colourful pebbles. The best of the lot is the Bay at the Back of the Ocean, beside the golf course, and only a mile and a half walk from the ferry. This was one of John Smith's favourite places and it's easy to see why. At the southern tip of the island is another sandy beach at St Columba's Bay, believed to be the spot where the saint first landed. The small cairns here are said to have been built by the monks as penance for their sins (they obviously had a lot on their conscience). You can also seek answers to difficult questions by walking round the labyrinth, whose twisting route makes use of your left and right brain and makes you think. Around the corner, at Rubha na Carraig-géire on the southeastern tip, is the marble quarry, disused since 1915. The rusting remains of the cutting equipment are still lying around.
Another good walk is to the top of Dun I, the only real hill, which rises to a height of 300 ft.To get there, continue on the road north from the abbey, past MacDougal's Cross, then go through a gate to the right of Bishop's Walk Farm and follow the fence up to where you join a footpath up to the top. It's only about half an hour up and down and there are great views from the top of the entire island and the coastline of Mull.
The passenger ferry from Fionnphort on Mull lands at Baile Mór, Iona's main village, which is little more than a row of cottages facing the sea. There are over a dozen places to stay but, as demand far exceeds supply during the busy summer season, it's best to book in advance at one of the tourist offices on Mull, or in Oban. There's also a post office, a very good craft shop and general store in the village.
Just outside the village, on the way to the abbey, are the ruins of the Augustinian nunnery. Just to the north, housed in the parish church manse, built by Thomas Telford, is the Iona Heritage Centre, which features displays on the island's social history. Info - Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 1030-1630. Adult £1.50, which features displays on the island's social history. Nearby stands the intricately carved 15th-century Maclean's Cross.
Isle of Iona Events
Isle of Iona Hotels & Accommodation
There are 15 B&Bs on the island; ask at the post office for a full list. Argyll Hotel, Tel. 700334, Fax. 700510, 17 rooms, open Apr-Oct. This is the better of the island's 2 upmarket hotels, and its very good restaurant serves cheap lunches and mid-range-expensive 4-course dinners. Among the island's B&Bs is Iona Cottage, Tel. 700579, open year round. It's worth the walk down to The Iona Hostel, Tel. 700642, an exceptional hostel with views to the Treshnish Islands about a mile from the ferry along the path past the abbey. It's best to book ahead in summer. Apart from the Argyll Hotel, there's the Martyrs' Bay Restaurant, which serves soup and snacks.