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 Scotland. The Iona Community, an ecumenical community, are tenants of the the Abbey Complex, where they conduct worship and receive guests during the summer months.

Practicalities

See the Calmac website for ferry sailing times from Oban to Mull and from Fionnphort to Iona.

 
  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.1 High Crosses and 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.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.2 Vallum, Abbey and Cloister

    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.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    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 pilgrim route used for funeral processions.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    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.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.5 Martyr's Bay

    Martyrs Bay is just south of the village centre, beyond St Ronan’s Bay. It is named in commemoration of the 68 monks of Iona slaughtered by the VIking raiders who attacked the island in 806.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.6 Hill of the Angels

    According to Colmcille’s biographer, Adomnán, Cnoc nan Aingeal is where the saint was seen meeting with the angels.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    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.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    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.