Mystical, magical Iona Abbey on the Isle of Iona in western Scotland — it takes commitment to get there but is worth the effort.
Started in 563AD, a monk named Columba came to Iona from Ireland with twelve companions and founded a monastery. The monastery buildings were originally built of wood and thatch. Around 800AD, the original buildings were replaced by a stone chapel.
One of the primary functions of the monastery was the production of Christian manuscripts, books and annals. Important works including The Chronicle of Ireland (740AD) and The Book of Kells (800 AD) are believed to have been produced here. Because of the monastery and the monk’s dedication to the creation of beautiful manuscripts, Iona was a center of learning during the Dark Ages.
Four tall, intricately carved crosses, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, once stood close to the abbey. Three can now be seen in the Abbey Museum, while one–erected between 750 and 800AD–is still in place (St. Martin’s Cross). These crosses are some of the oldest examples of celtic crosses. Just amazing!
Modern Day Community
While Iona Abbey is one of the oldest Christian centers in all of western Europe, it is also a contemporary religious community. You can attend services and volunteer in the community. In addition, there are some adorable cats roaming the grounds.
Getting there is the challenging part! The most straightforward thing to do is to travel via bus and boat tour leaving from Oban. This day-long journey will take you via boat from Oban to the Isle of Mull, then overland via bus across the Isle of Mull (no stops….) and then catch the small ferry from Mull to Iona. After that, it is a short walk from the Iona harbor to the chapel. It is a long, but lovely journey. If you are lucky, you will spot some “hairy coos” along the way!
Learn move about the Iona Abbey here.