August 17, 2018

Slow Travel: Isle of Iona

Iona is a small island off the southwest coast of Mull, Scotland. It’s home to around 120 permanent residents and is perhaps best known for its Abbey. The white sands, well-kept beaches and natural beauty, makes Iona a popular spot for visitors from around Scotland and beyond.


How to get there

In order to get to Iona, you first need to travel to the Isle of Mull. The main, most popular route is to catch the Oban to Craignure ferry service. It’s a 50 minutes journey and on a clear day, the views are spectacular – definitely worth having your camera to hand. If you are taking a car, do book in advance, especially in the summer months when it is especially busy.

Once on Mull, you will need to catch another ferry to reach the secluded and very beautiful island of Iona. The ferry departs from Fionnphort which is situated at the southwestern tip of Mull. It’s important to note that visitor cars are not generally permitted on Iona so definitely bear this in mind if you have any mobility issues. There is a car park near the ferry terminal and it costs around £6 to park for the day (be sure to have change on you).

What to see on Iona

The best way to explore Iona is either by foot or by bicycle. Being a tiny island, it’s an easy place to navigate around and see a number of sights in just one day.

1. Iona Abbey


Iona has a great deal of religious heritage, which dates back to the arrival of St Columbas in AD563, when he arrived and founded a monastery. The Abbey has been beautifully restored – parts of it you can explore for free. They have a little chapel called St Oran’s that’s open to the public. Here, you can write a message for a loved one whether you are religious or not.

It’s also home to the Infirmary Museum, we didn’t visit this ourselves wanting to make the most of the sunshine instead, but it apparently boasts one of the most impressive collections of stone crosses, slabs and grave markers in Scotland. Ideal for any history enthusiasts out there!

2. Iona Nunnery


Although now a ruin, the old nunnery is definitely worth popping by. It’s been partially restored – with walls still intact and markers to denote where each room in the nunnery was and what they were used for. Parts have been taken over by nature and it’s a lovely, very peaceful place to explore, particularly in the sunshine.

3. St. Columbas Bay


This gorgeous bay is a 20 minute walk or so from the pier and has stunning views of Iona and its surroundings. We went on a bright summer’s day and the views were breathtaking- definitely made the long car journey (from Calgary) and ferry ride worthwhile! Even in the height of summer we had almost the entire beach to ourselves and spent time chatting, sunbathing and watching the waves ebb in and out.

Where to eat

As it’s such a small island, there is not a huge amount of choice when it comes to lunch spots. We tried Martyrs Bay Restaurant and Bar and had a good ol’ jacket potato, followed by a sweet treat and a cup of tea. As we were walking around, we clocked the Restaurant at The Argyll Hotel, which had a tasty looking menu and also Iona Heritage Centre Garden Cafe. We wanted to try the latter but after our beach exploration we were too late to sample what this cute, tucked-away cafe had to offer!

Be sure to check when the last ferry back is so you are not stranded on the island! If you’re staying on the island then be sure to check out what wildlife tours there are – both on and around Iona, and be sure to book your accommodation in advance.

Have you been to any Scottish islands? If so, do you have a favourite? I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments below.

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