Iona

Jun 13, 2019 - Lord of the Glens


It was a cool, bracing start to the day but we had brilliant visibility as we slipped our moorings in Oban and made for the Isle of Mull, one of the largest of the Inner Hebrides and one with an exceptionally long, indented coastline. It is an island celebrated for its wildlife—golden and white-tailed eagles, shorebirds, and rich offshore marine life, including minke whales, an orca pod, and seasonal basking sharks. We disembarked at Craignure and drove in a diagonal across the island, along a single-track road with passing places, to Fionnphort where we met the ferry for Iona.

Iona has emblematic significance in northwest Europe. It was here in 563 AD that Columba arrived on a mission to bring Celtic Christianity to Scotland from Ireland. On the island, he established a monastic community, famed for its learning and its craftsmanship. The Book of Kells, one the treasures of modern Ireland that today is housed in the library of Dublin’s Trinity College, was produced on Iona. We walked to the restored Benedictine abbey, passing one of Britain’s best-preserved medieval nunneries and one of Thomas Telford’s Parliamentary Kirks on the way, to view St. Martin’s Cross, the original Celtic cross from which all others derived their distinctive design, still in situ since the 8th century. The abbey, its cloister, a museum of high crosses and numerous craft shops brought much interest.

After a wholesome lunch at the St. Columba Hotel we took the ferry back to Fionnphort and returned across the Isle of Mull, passing the island’s two Munros, Ben Talla and Ben Mhor, both meeting the requirement of being more than 3,000 feet. Detouring to Duart, we visited the ancestral pile of the Clan Maclean, a film-set of a Scottish castle perched on a rocky crag strategically situated overlooking the Sound of Mull. A tour of the castle, complete with prisoners in the dungeon with sound effects and a stroll around the site that includes a burial ground for Hanoverian soldiers billeted at Duart after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, rounded off the day. We drove to Tobermory to rejoin the ship.

Before dinner we had a lively presentation from a member of staff of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust followed after dinner by a documentary on wildlife conservation on the Isle of Mull.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales.  Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally.  He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world.  In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals.  In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City).  He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Eric Kruszewski

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

An editorial photographer and videographer based in Washington, D.C., Eric Kruszewski's multimedia work focuses on reportage and travel. His work is represented by National Geographic Creative, and he is a regular contributor to National Geographic's Image Collection.

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