Wednesday, October 17, 2007


On the other side of Mull, lies the much smaller island of Iona, a place of pilgrimage for many centuries, since an Irish priest, latterly known as St Columba founded a monastic community here in AD563.

Breakfast at the B&B was graced by the appearance of a young stag, who bounded into the field by the dining room window, pausing for the guests' admiration, and then making a retreat as rapid as his entrance. The other guests were marshalls for the annual Tour of Mull car rally which had run over the preceding weekend, and were about to make their way home to Wigan.

The drive across the island is less than 40 miles, but for non rally-drivers, it's a slow journey. I made frequent stops as Bondi was rather put out by the twisting, turning, stop-and-go traversal from Salen to Fionnhport.

We arrived just in time to catch the ferry over, this time leaving the car behind. The island is less than 4 miles long, and it's easy to handle on foot.

Not a member of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, Iona Nunnery was founded here some 600 years after St Columba's monastery.

That monastery was replaced by a Benedictine abbey around 1200, and the building continued to evolve for another four hundred years. The Abbey is another 5-10 minutes' walk along the major spine of the island, and there's a small charge to enter the building and grounds. The building complex began to decay with post-Reformation neglect. Several waves of restoration over the last century have made it a working community project once more. I didn't find the church interior terribly impressive, but the stone carvings around the cloisters are quite memorable.

We followed the path a little further, and then made a diversion up Dun I, the tallest hill, before turning back to the ferry ramp. The weather was holding out really well, and I dropped into a hotel for lunch (more Australian staff!), eating outside until a squall forced me to leave Bondi on the porch while I fled inside.

The weather alternated sun and squall until we could get the return ferry, but I was rewarded with the most brilliant rainbow I've ever seen, arching from Iona to Mull.

Bondi was rather muddy after our climb, so I took him down to the beach near the ferry ramp, trying to entice him into the water. He was rather disinterested till I threw some biscuits out, and then he happily waded out time and again until I was satisfied he was clean.

I took a slightly different "scenic" route on the way back to Salen. It's probably not as bumpy as the main road, but there are fewer passing places, and it's a little hairy trying to negotiate oncoming traffic on some of the coastal track.

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