Isle of Iona

The Oban Times - - FEATURE -

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.

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