Isle of Iona
Known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, Iona is a magical isle. From the final resting place of kings to its current reputation as a leader in fair trade and ecotourism, this tiny emerald island off the western shore of Mull captures the hearts and spirits of those who make the pilgrimage.
Upon leaving Fionnphort on the short ferry crossing, a feeling of tranquillity comes over visitors as they approach the idyllic wee island. The first things one notices is the monastery, built around 1200. But the spot has been sacred since 563, when Saint Columba and 13 followers landed at the bay to establish a monastery.
Many kings of Scotland, Ireland and the Vikings are buried at the abbey. Perhaps the most famous illuminated manuscript of the Dark Ages, the Book of Kells, was created at Iona, which was a celebrated centre of learning through the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, wealthy patrons commissioned exquisite Celtic crosses, some which date to the 8th century.
Pilgrims and tourists alike make the journey to pay homage, tour the abbey and graveyard, and view the fascinating collection of carved crosses and stones, which, along with reproductions of illuminated manuscripts, are thoughtfully displayed and interpreted throughout the church and the grounds.
While many visitors go to Iona for a day trip, there are a range of accommodations, as well as quaint shops, cafés and restaurants. On Iona, the everyday world seems to melt away as the gentle lapping of turquoise waters lulls one into a relaxed state.