Island of the week: Iona
THE birthplace of Christianity in Scotland, Iona has much to offer pilgrims and historians, though its sandy stretches of coastline and tranquil scenery are also worthy of worship
Location: Inner Hebrides, near the Isle of Mull
Population: 120 (approximate)
Gaelic name: Chaluim Chille (thought to be the Gaelic name of Colm Cille, otherwise known as St Columba)
Iona is best known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. St Columba set up a monastery on the island in 563 AD, Iona Abbey, which was key to the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland. Iona has since retained its strong Christian heritage to the present day, the focal point of which is the abbey itself, now maintained by Historic Scotland. Despite the island’s small population, Iona is said to attract an estimated 130,000 visitors each year. Aside from the island’s historical significance, its peaceful scenery and green landscapes make Iona a very popular destination,
History: There is little information on Iona’s history before St Columba’s arrival in Iona in 563 AD, aside from the fact that the island was part of the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata, which encompassed what is now known as the Argyll & Bute region, and some of Northern Ireland. What can be said with more certainty is that St Columba had a fundamental impact not only on Iona, but on Scotland in general. After being exiled from Ireland for his involvement in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne, St Columba left with a number of disciples in a coracle, eventually reaching Iona. After Columba’s death in 597 AD, Iona Abbey became a centre of pilgrimage, though journeys were only made by wealthy worshippers initially. Iona Abbey is also the site where the Book of Kells was made, an artifact now held by Trinity College in Dublin. After a period of decline in the late 9th century, owing to years of constant Viking raids that decimated the island and the abbey, the island’s fortunes took a turn for the better once the Vikings converted to Christianity and integrated with the local Gaelic population, after which the island remained relatively peaceful. This then paved the way for the restoration and regeneration of the island, and by 1200 AD Raghnall gave the order for the crumbling Iona Abbey to be rebuilt.
Attractions: Aside from Iona Abbey, the island has several stretches of coastline to admire. Traigh Ban, to the north of the island, is one of the quietest parts of the island, and one of the most beautiful. Elsewhere, St Columba’s Bay’s grassy area is ideal for picnics. The island is also home to several historic Christian monuments, such as St Oran’s Chapel and the Iona Nunnery. Several small art galleries and potteries can also be found on Iona.
How to get there: Take a ferry from Oban to Craignure, then drive to Fionnphort ferry terminal (a 35 mile drive), where a regular ferry service to Oban operates.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West