Although only a tiny island, Iona has a big history and is known as the birthplace of Christianity in the UK. Its historic abbey was established by St Columba in 563, and year round the island welcomes visitors on pilgrimages. However with its white sand beaches, azure seas and picturesque village – and the definite feel that time has stood still – it is one of the popular stopovers on our two ‘Around Mull’ cruises.
These cruises also feature visits to Mull itself including its many sea-lochs, and surrounding islands such as Ulva and Staffa. Iona is a popular destination for our guests who love its remoteness and its beautiful beaches – it’s only a short distance from Mull but a world apart.
The island is an outpost off the end of the craggy Ross of Mull and for the regular tourist it takes an intrepid journey by two ferries and a long drive across Mull to reach it. On a Majestic Line cruise, our guests can enjoy the sea journey around Mull and along the Sound of Iona with the ease of a direct drop off on the island jetty. From there it is just a short walk to experience the island’s attractions, or to take time to relax and enjoy the ambience of this unspoilt island gem.
Particular highlights of a visit include the easy and flat walks along the deserted roads of the island, to the historic Abbey or to visit one of the tiny white beaches dotted along the way.
Iona is known for its own beautiful marble – a brilliant white rock with green veins. A visit to the peaceful chapel of the Abbey will reveal a superb altar made from the stone itself.
The island is a tiny gem which, with its small shops and easy walks through the fields and along the roads, offers a real glimpse into the life of a Hebridean island. Our guests will get a real feel for Iona and why it is so special. There should be time too for some light shopping with a variety of artisan craft shops and the Abbey gift shop.
Wildlife is in abundance on the island and its seas. Iona is home to the elusive and protected Corncrake, a shy bird with a distinctive call that can be heard in the unique machair grasslands, but is rarely seen. On a good day, when sailing up the Sound of Iona, our guests are delighted with the area’s wildlife. As well as birds such as puffins, shags and razorbills, we see lots of porpoises and seals in the surrounding waters, and if a dolphin pod which regularly visits the Sound of Iona is in evidence, these magical mammals often follow our progress.
All our guests enjoy a visit to the historic Abbey, possibly the most beautifully placed religious building in Scotland. It is packed full of the history of the monks who first built it and of Scotland’s kings who were carried along ‘The Road of the Dead’ from the southern end of the island to be buried there. Among the graves is the more contemporary resting place of the late John Smith, former Labour Leader, who loved the island and many people visit Iona to pay their respects.
There are wonderful views to enjoy in your own time and plenty of outstanding photographic opportunities to capture special memories. Arriving by boat is a spectacular way to see the island from the sea, and we also have really special views across to the pink granite of Mull and of other islands we visit on the cruises, including the Treshnish Isles, Gometra, Ulva and Staffa.