Newest Review: ... where you can either arrange a tour or book a local taxi to get you to Fionnphort. The island. ********* Iona is famous as the island wh... more
A day in paradise..
Isle of Iona (Scotland)
Member Name: anwar7
Isle of Iona (Scotland)
Disadvantages: Hard to get to.
I love the west coast of Scotland, especially the islands known as the inner and Outer Hebrides and spend as much time as I can there. I have recently returned from a trip to the Isle of Mull and whilst there visited the tiny island of Iona.
Iona is situated one mile off the south west coast of Mull. To get there you will first need to take a ferry from Oban on the Scottish mainland to the isle of Mull. The ferry for Iona leaves from Fionnphort. The journey from the ferry terminal at Cragnure to Fionnphort is on winding single track roads and will take about an hour.
Caledonian McBrayne operates the ferry which runs every hour during the winter months and more frequently during the busy summer months. The fare is £3.20 return for an adult with children up to age 15 paying half. There is no charge for children under 5. This is a passenger only ferry with the exception of residents. You can take a bike to Iona at no extra cost. There is a large free car park a short walk from the ferry terminal. There are toilets available at the terminal. The ferry takes just 10 minutes to make the crossing and there are several comfortable lounges on board to seek shelter if the weather is poor.
It is possible to get to Iona without taking a car. Buses and trains go to Oban from Glasgow from where you can either arrange a tour or book a local taxi to get you to Fionnphort.
Iona is famous as the island where St Columba landed in 563 AD, bringing Christianity to Britain. The Island is dominated by its imposing Abbey where you will find a thriving Christian community. The Abbey welcomes visitors and you can take part in the regular services. There is a small gift and book shop selling some lovely jewellery. The Abbey also has an interesting museum containing stone crosses and ancient gravestones. On the day we visited the weather was very wet and windy and we were invited to eat our picnic in the shelter of the cloisters.
Although the Abbey is well worth a visit there is so much more to this Island. The ferry lands at Baile Mor, the name translates as big town, although this tiny hamlet is anything but! The hamlet consists of a few small hotels, cottages and a Spar store. The beach at Baile Mor is of white sand and very attractive.
The Island is only3 miles from North to south and 1 ½ miles from east to west so it possible to explore in day. From the village it is a short walk up hill to the ruined nunnery built in 1200. This is one of the best preserved nunneries in Britain. There is a really interesting graveyard next to the chapel where 48 Medieval Scottish kings are buried including Shakespears Mc Beth.
We only had a day on the island and wanted to spend most of out time on one of the beautiful white sand beaches that this Island is famous for. There are several beaches to choice from and we opted for the beach at Traigh Ban, reached by a 20 minute walk along a gravel path. The beach is well signposted and is backed by sand dunes covered in Machair. In the spring I am told the Machair is covered in beautiful spring flowers. However on the day we visited the dunes offered some welcome shelter from the biting wind! My children spent several happy hours combing the beach looking for shells and the green coloured stones that are found on Iona's beaches. We had the beach to ourselves, another bonus as far as I am concerned!
I was surprised to learn that Iona gets over 140,000 visitors every year! The resident population is just 90. I am not sure I would enjoy this delightful as much during the busy summer months!
Iona is very different from Mull in that it is low lying with its highest point reaching just 100 metres. This makes it ideal for cyclists to explore.
Accommodation and refreshments
There are several small hotels on the island as well as bed and breakfast accommodation and a small number of self catering facilities. I suggest you look on the Iona web site for more information. As this is a small island you will probably need to book well in advance to get the accommodation you want. There are several small cafes and restaurants on the Island but most of these were closed for the winter during our visit. There is a small and friendly Spar shop selling not only food and alcohol but a selection of gifts. There are also a few craft shops to explore although we didn't have time to check these out.
The Abbey offers retreat accommodation and there is also a catholic centre where you can apply to stay. In the summer there is a campsite at the end of the Island with amazing views!
As a family we are really interested in viewing wildlife. Iona is the home to the rare Corncrake although the bird doesn't arrive on the Island until April. Iona is a great place to spot an otter although we were not in luck! There are also many sea birds that make the Island their home. During the summer you have a good chance of seeing dolphins and basking sharks. Unlike Mull, Iona has no snakes.
I loved my visit to this beautiful Island and would definitely like to return. It is possible to visit for a day although I would have liked to spend longer on the Island. It is a great place to escape the stresses of modern living and feel at one with nature. My children really enjoyed their short time on Iona and would both love to return!
Summary: small Island off the coast of Mull.