On my first trips to Iona, I did as 95% of all day visitors do - walked from the pierhead to the abbey, looked around a bit, and returned. Despite the stirring quote of Samuel Johnston:
That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.there is more to Iona than the abbey, and this time, I wanted to see something of the rest of the island.
First we walked south from the pierhead, towards the southern end of the island. Iona has an unusual luminance even in dull weather, due to its shallow beaches of white sand. Even when the storm clouds gather over the dark volcanic hills of neighbouring Mull, low lying Iona seems bright. No wonder holy people chose this as a site for their contemplations.
From the south of the island, we walked across its centre to Camas Cuil an t-Saimh, the Bay at the Back of the Ocean, where somebody had raised a number of artfully placed stones.
Camas Cuil an t-Saimh:
There are not many houses on the island, and I wondered how many were lived in all year round, and how many were holiday homes, or used by the Iona Community for visitor accomodation.
We returned to the east side of the island, and headed up Iona's miniature hill, Dùn Ì, all 100m of it. It commands a wide and windy view of Mull's western seaboard, Staffa, the Treshnish Isles, and nearer to hand Fionnphort, the abbey, and Iona's beaches. Happiness is a sunny lunch in the lee of the wind with a view over Iona. The white beaches to the north of the island called.
On Dùn Ì:
There are as many legends about Iona as there are pebbles on the beach, so I will restrict myself to one I read in a ghost book years ago that is not on the internet. It is of the 'Call of Iona' - an involuntary compulsion to walk deep into the sea from one of the beautiful white beaches, until the victim drowns or comes to their senses, far from shore, up to their oxters in seawater. My own paddle was entirely voluntary, only up to my knees, but I could see how bewitching were the deeper waters. Stay close to the shore...
Even an entire day on Iona was not enough. I would like to return for a couple of days, get a better feeling for the island. Some day. On our return home rain swathed the dark hills of Mull whilst the sun shone brilliantly on our lochshore road.
Rainbow over Loch Scridain: