Isle of Iona

Less than a mile off the southwest tip of the Isle of Mull lies the small Isle of Iona, just three miles long and not much more than a mile wide. This island has been a place of pilgrimage for several centuries, and a place of Christian worship for more than 1400 years. It also earned a place in our reader survey of the most beautiful places in Scotland.

History of the Isle of Iona

It was to this flat Hebridean island that St Columba fled from Ireland in 563 and established a monastery, compiling a vast library of illuminated manuscripts and converting more or less all of pagan Scotland as well as much of northern England. This history and the island’s splendid isolation have lent it a peculiar religiosity. In the much-quoted words of Dr Johnson, who visited in 1773, “That man is little to be envied … whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.”

Today, however, the island can barely cope with the constant flood of day-trippers, and the abbey of Iona still holds services but charges entry. In order to appreciate the special atmosphere and to have time to see the whole island, including the often-overlooked west coast, you should stay at least one night.

Getting to the Isle of Iona

The isle of Iona can be reached by ferry from Fionphort on the Isle of Mull.

If you are short on time, visiting the Isles of Mull and Iona with a 3 day tour starting from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

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written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 26.05.2021

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