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Iona
Iona

Iona

Iona lies off the southwest corner of the Isle of Mull. This beautiful island was the site of Colmcille’s monastery founded in 563.

Iona was at the heart of the familia of churches and religious settlements scattered across the west of Scotland founded by Colmcille and his successors.

Today a journey to the island involves a ferry from Oban, a drive across the southern half of Mull and a short boat trip across to Iona – but in Colmcille’s time, people travelled by sea.

Once you start to look at the island from the sea, you quickly realise how close it is to the islands of the Inner Hebrides, the west coast of Scotland and the north coast of Ireland.

Adomnán, a successor to Colmcille as Abbot of Iona and author of the 7th century ‘Life of St Columba’, often mentions the monks travelling between the islands and beyond, and welcoming visitors to the monastery.

Visit this peaceful island and discover the legacy of Colmcille’s life and work.

The island of Iona has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1979. The Abbey buildings and other ecclesiastical sites are managed by Historic ScotlandThe Iona Community, an ecumenical community, are tenants of the the Abbey Complex, where they conduct worship and receive guests during the summer months.

Iona

  • 7.1 The High Crosses and the Abbey

    Colmcille arrived on Iona in 563 having left Derry in Ireland. According to tradition, Colmcille looked for a place to build his monastery where he would not be able to see his homeland - hence his choice of Iona. He also needed to find a place where he could live and work...

  • 7.2 Abbey, Cloister and Vallum

    The Vallum marked the boundary of the Colmcille’s monastery on Iona. It is formed by two embankments on either side of a deep ditch. This raised ground is 335 metres long by 152 metres wide. ‘Vallum’ comes from the Latin word for the fortifications of a camp but this was...

  • 7.3 St Oran’s Chapel and Graveyard

    A cobbled track runs between St Martin's Cross and the wall of the graveyard. This is the only visible portion of 'The Street of the Dead', a medieval pilgrimage route used for funeral processions. St Oran’s Chapel is the oldest ecclesiastical building on Iona, and dates from the 12th century....

  • 7.4 The Nunnery/An Eaglais Dhubh

    The Nunnery was built at about the same time as the Benedictine Abbey - in the 13th century - by Reginald, son of Somerled, Lord of the Isles. His sister Bethoc was the first prioress. Bethoc followed the Rule of St Augustine. Iona had one of only two Augustinian nunneries...

  • 7.5 Martyr’s Bay

    Martyrs Bay is just south of the village and pier. The derivation of its name is not certain. If the original name was Port nam Mairtear, it may allude to the slaughter of monks in one of the Norse raids of the 9th century. Or the word ‘mairtear’ may be...

  • 7.6 Hill of the Angels

    The centre of the island is fertile grazing ground called The Machair - machair meaning a plain or level field. Continue walking south, with the Sound of Iona on your left. The road turns right to lead west across the island. On the left, just before the gate onto the...

  • 7.7 St Columba’s Bay

    Colmcille arrived in Iona from Argyll in 563 where he had been seeking permission to build a monastery on land belonging to the ruling clan - the Dál Riata. From the Argyll coast, he would have presumably sailed along the south coast of Mull and landed on the south of Iona at...

  • 7.8 The Hermit’s Cell


    Today all that remains of the Hermit’s Cell is a rough stone foundation of an oval hut which would have been made of timber or turf. An entrance faces southwest to capture the most daylight. As he tells stories from Colmcille’s life, the saint’s biographer Adomnán describes the island...

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