No holiday to the Isle of Mull in Winter (or at any other time) is complete without a day trip to Iona. As part of my Visiting the Isle of Mull in Winter mini series I thought I would add our day trip to this lovely island in too.
The trip from Craignure down to Fionnphort takes longer than you would imagine for just thirty four miles. We wanted to catch the 10:15 CalMac ferry and so left the cottage at 8:45, leaving ourselves plenty of time to drive steadily down the island. This left time for stopping to see any wildlife or getting caught up behind slow moving traffic – definitely something to bare in mind if you are visiting in warmer months or peak times. No bother if you are too early or just miss a ferry because there is a small sandy beach to explore that will keep you occupied.
It’s only a ten or so minute crossing to Iona and we usually choose to stand out on the deck and look out to sea.
For our first and second visits we have spent the days walking the top half of the island, going into the abbey and then having our lunch on the beach. These are by far the busiest parts of the island (from what I can see), and with good reason. The abbey is one of Scotland’s most sacred and historic sites and was founded by Columba in AD 563 and is still used for religious practice today. Even as a non-religious person, I could feel the history and atmosphere as we wandered the site. Even if that is not your “thing” I would highly recommend it, it really is a pretty impressive building with a great view!
The white sandy beaches have their own charm. When we visited last year we walked slightly south to the golf course, yes Iona has its own golf course that is practically on the beach, and then with the help of an OS map made our way to the north of the island and the beach we had been on the year before. We didn’t see another soul. Not one person. We were out for about 4 hours, the sun was shining and there was no breeze at all, you wouldn’t have thought it was March in Scotland!
This year we had purchased a book with various walks and decided we would walk to the south of the isle, Port na Curiach, where St Columba first landed.
Following instructions like “just before the beach turn left onto an indistinct grassy track” we did make it across the higher ground to the pebble beach. The elevated view over the beach was beautiful. The light was soft and the clouds were making quite a statement. I quite like pebble beaches but in a different sort of way to the sand. You find interesting pebbles and rocks and I, inevitably, end up bringing something home with me. We spent well over an hour here. Looking out to sea, taking photos, watching the birds, having lunch and finding pretty stones. Some of the stones I picked up on the beach are green sometimes known as Iona marble or Columba’s tears and can only be found on this little Scottish island. Generations of people have claimed the stones have healing powers, will protect you from shipwreck, fire and miscarriage.
Making our way back along the same boggy path we made it back to the golf course and decided to go down to the sandy beach. From here the walking book describes being on the beach and being able to see the plumes of water caused by waves forcing water through a blow hole known as the Spouting Cave.
By now the light has changed and the wind had picked up slightly and again we are alone on the beach watching the waves come in. Not a sound but the waves and birds going about their business.
We made it back along the lane and to the ferry just in time for the next crossing.
I would recommend that if you like walks and secluded beaches and you are heading to Iona please head south to the beach. I think even in Summer you would require some sensible footwear across the hills. The book says it is a eight and a half kilometre walk so take plenty of water too.
Back in time for the crossing back over to Mull and all in all another amazing, sunny day trip to Iona another stone to add to the collection, memories and yes, more photos!