Iona


Iona Abbey

Lying just a mile off the coast of Mull, the Isle of Iona was an early centre for Christianity which has long held a special magic.
A monastery was founded on Iona in 563 A.D. by an Irish monk named Columba, who was in exile from Ireland. Iona was at that time part of the Kingdom of Dal Riata. Iona was truly a centre for Christianity, with its monastery converting a large number of Picts and Anglo-Saxons. The monastery itself has long been associated with so-called Celtic Christianity. The Book of Kells, also known as the Book of Columba, appears to have initiated or produced on Iona around the end of the 8th Century, and the island is also said to be the original place where the Celtic cross was used.
A Benedictine convent was later founded on Iona, with Iona Abbey, constructed in 1203, itself being a Benedictine abbey. The Abbey was largely demolished at the time of the Reformation, though an Augustine nunnery survived as ruins. St. Martin’s Cross, one of the best preserved Celtic crosses in the British Isles, stands in front of Iona Abbey, and the Rèilig Odhrain is an ancient burial ground containing the graves of a number of early Scottish kings. Among these are the graves of Cináed mac Ailpín (King of the Picts; Kenneth I of Scotland), Domnall mac Causantín (King of the Picts; Donald II of Scotland) and Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (MacBeth, King of Scotland). The grave of John Smith, former leader of the Labour Party, is also located here at Iona Abbey.
Iona is both a beautiful and ancient place, and any visit to Mull should include a visit to Iona. A short ferry crossing from Fionnphort on Mull takes you to Iona; non-residents must leave their cars at Fionnphort. Fionnphort itself is 37 miles from Craignure.
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