Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Quotations on the Abbey wall

My elder daughter is called Iona and it has been our intention, ever since she was born, to introduce her to the island after which she was named.  Well it took 21 year,s but last summer we finally made it.

Our visit was part of a mini tour of the Inner Hebrides.  We spent a few days in Tobermory before catching two buses and a ferry to the island.  The scenery was spectacular and the fine mist only added to the atmosphere.  

Iona Hostel

We were booked into the eco award winning Iona Hostel, at the north end of the island.  You can just about see it in the photographs, nestling under the hill.  There was no one around when we arrived, but the door was open and there was a message on the front desk inviting us to kick off our boots and make ourselves at home in the kitchen.  Which we did, and the memory of that cup of tea on a comfy sofa looking out over the sea to the Dutchman's cap and beyond will stay with me to end of my days.

View north from Iona Hostel

It wasn't long before the other residents began to drift back in after their day's adventures, followed closely by John, the affable owner, who showed us to our room and gave us a tour of the facilities.  The room was basic, two sets of timber bunk beds.  That was it.  The toilets and shower rooms were equally minimalist.  But the walls were dotted with poems!

The kitchen/dining/living room ran the length of the hostel and was very much the heart of it.  Visitors were encouraged to make full use of anything and everything on the communal shelves and although we ate separately there was much sharing of tasks.  While drying dishes I met a woman who knew folk I hadn't seen since I was a child in India over forty years ago.  We bumped into a French family we'd first met a couple of days earlier in Tobermory.  We played Articulate late into the night with a young couple from the north of England and the two resident hostel helpers.  And on our final night we were entertained by the arrival of a large Scottish/Italian famiily who filled the hostel with laughter, the pattering of little feet and the aroma of herbs and tomatoes.

With only two full days on the island we couldn't hope to cover it all, so we picked out a few sights.  On our first day we braved the mist to walk right down the island to St Columba's Bay at its southernmost tip.

Dun I

St Columba's Bay

The next day, as bright and sunny as the first was cold and wet, we headed for the abbey.  To celebrate its 350th anniversary Historic Scotland has produced an excellent audio guide which allowed each of us to explore the site at our own pace.
Iona Abbey

St Martin's Cross
St Martin's Cross

St John's Cross

St Columba

Descent of the Spirit by Jacques Lipchitz

Afterwards we took advantage of the weather to climb Dun I for a bird's eye view of the island, including our hostel and the island of Colonsay to the south, our next destination.

Iona Hostel from Dun I

But of course, no visit to Iona would have been complete without a pilgrimage to John Smith's grave, perhaps one of the best Prime Ministers we never had.

Next stop Colonsay!

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