Iona

Iona location in Scotland
Population: 125

Iona is a small island about a mile west of Mull which lies off the West coast of Scotland. Iona was made famous when St Columba founded a monastery there in 563. St Columba spread his religion and Iona became famous throughout Europe making it a site of pilgrimage. Many of the early kings of Scotland were buried here in the ancient burial ground adjacent to the 12th century St Oran's Chapel.

St Martin's cross

The graveyard is called Relig Odhrain and it was the final resting place of the Kings of Dalriada as well as several Kings of Scotland, Norway and Ireland. The last person to be buried there was the Labour leader John Smith who died in 1994.

Vikings raided the island several times and there is a story about the monks running down to the shore to greet these rare visitors only to be slaughtered on the beach, colouring the stones there red and white, though obviously untrue it's a good wee story.

Iona has been visited by tourists for centuries and is thought to be a deeply spiritual place. There is plenty to see including the ruin of the medieval nunnery, the parish church, the manse (now the Iona Heritage Centre), the ninth century St Martin's cross and of course the abbey. The abbey has been fully restored and is a working place of worship. You can visit the Infirmary Museum and the Michael Chapel and the abbey is a beautiful and tranquil place.

If you want to visit you can get a ferry to Mull from Oban and then another across to Iona itself. The island is very small, just a mile by three and half and cars are not allowed. Iona is a special place and well worth a visit.