Posts Tagged ‘Iona’

Iona – the Abbey

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Every time I peel an onion, something I do several times most weeks, it reminds me of our stay at Iona. As paying guests of the Iona Community at the Abbey we took our part in the daily chores which kept the place running, and each morning after breakfast I went with the other ‘Otters’ – the work group to which I had been assigned to the kitchen to prepare vegetables. My part in this job seemed always to be one of two or three of us peeling onions – and you need a lot of onions to cook vegetarian meals for around 50 or 60 people.

There are a lot of dodges that people advise to avoid tears when peeling onions, and I think I tried them all. They may help if you are only peeling one or two, but none help if you have a mountain of them to get through. You cry, and crying only makes it worse. Still, I think I preferred it to cleaning the lavatories and washrooms that my partner was assigned to.

The Abbey is essentially a twentieth-century reconstruction carried out by teams of volunteers from the Iona Community after the site with its ruins was gifted to the Church of Scotland by the 8th Duke of Argyll in 1899, with more modern living accommodation built alongside it in a matching external style.

The Duke is still present – in marble, lying beside his wife.

As well as the abbey, alongside it is a small church, the oldest building on Iona (c 1150) with an ancient graveyard where 48 Kings of Scotland were buried. They were joined more recently by Labour leader John Smith; a boulder marks his grave with the message “An Honest Man’s The Noblest Work of God”.

There are ruins of another chapel in the grounds, as well as those of a former Bishop’s House, and splendid views across the sound to Mull, enough to drag me out of bed for a short walk before breakfast (and onions.) And of course there were a number of short religious services, optional but an important part of the experience, though with too much unaccompanied singing for my taste.

More pictures in and around the Abbey from our visit 12 years ago on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


12 Years Ago – our journey to Iona

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Twelve years ago today (I’m writing this the day before posting) we – myself, my wife and our elder son – were on our way to Iona. We’d enjoyed 5 nights in Glasgow at a Rennie Mackintosh hotel – more pictures here – and seen the sunset over the Clyde but had got up early to leave the hotel to catch a bus to Oban in the rain which continued to drive against the windows throughout the 3 hour journey.

Near Inverary – this was the clearer view from the bus on our way home

It was still raining as we queued to buy tickets for the two ferry journeys. We were fortunate to reach the bus when the ferry landed at Craignure in time to get a seat, while some unlikely people were left standing in the rain, waiting for 5 hours for our bus to return for a second journey.

We could see Mull from the ferry on our journey home. Outward we only saw rain
The ferry we had arrived on from Oban at Craignure. seen from the bus windo

The rain eased off a little for what is quite a spectacular journey across Mull to Fionnphort, around 35 miles on what is rather jokingly called the A849, mostly single track with passing places. It was around an hour and a half before we arrived at the landing slip there for the ferry across the strait to Baile Mòr on the island of Iona.

The jetty at Fionnphort and Mull. The ferry has just started across the strait.

From the slip we could see the island clearly, though there was still a little light rain, and watch the ferry making its way across the 0.85 miles of water, and very clearly see the Abbey where we were to spend a week.

The ferry docks at Fionnphort.

Technically our stay at the Abbey was not a holiday but a retreat and we were there with around thirty friends sharing in the life of the Abbey, including sharing the chores as well as taking part in its religious life including shared meals. But this left plenty of time to enjoy and explore the island, 3 miles long and at its widest point only 1.5 miles wide and virtually car free. I’ll perhaps write more about that later this week.

The Bishop’s House and the Abbey – where we were to stay – from the ferry

A week later we were on our way home, and the weather was much better, and I was able to make a few more photographs, a couple of which I’ve used here.

The ferry approaches the slip at Baile Mòr on Iona

Today, sat at home and still only venturing out for exercise and the very occasional shopping for essentials it’s good to re-live a little from 12 years ago. We’ve had to cancel our holiday this year which would have been in Wales – and hope to make it there in 2021.

More on My London Diary.