A Brief History of Iona

In the incredible assortment of islands in the Inner Hebrides, you will find the holy isle of Iona, which is known for its peace and tranquillity as well as its stunning landscape and exciting history.

A brief history of Iona

Located only a mile from the much larger Isle of Mull, Iona is only a mile wide and 4 miles long with a population of just 125 people, but it has still had a tumultuous history. Having passed from Gaelic to Norse to Scottish in its time, it was once the centre of one of the most important monastic systems of both Britain and Ireland.

 Following this it became the spiritual birthplace of the Kingdom of Alba with many of its early kings buried there too. Then in the 13th Century a Benedictine nunnery was established, and its ruins remain to be seen even today making them among the best preserved of any Medieval nunnery in Scotland. Iona is also believed to be where the Celtic cross design (a crucifix with a circle) was created.

One of the main attractions is Iona Abbey which was rebuilt from 1938 with further restoration taking place throughout the 20th century. The Abbey features many replica ‘high crosses’ as well as original ones, and the graveyard is reputed to have had 48 early Scottish kings resting there as well as 8 Norwegian ones and 4 Irish.

Aside from its importance to early Christianity, the landscape is also stunning. Ascending Dun I, the highest point on the island at 333ft above sea level the views across to the neighbouring islands of Tiree, Coll, Rhum, Eigg and Skye and even Ireland on really clear days. And located right next to Dun I is the Well of Eternal Youth which is reputed to have healing properties. Many people make a pilgrimage there as a way of representing a new start.

Also on the island is Iona Heritage Centre which is open from March to October where you can see old photographs, learn more about the fascinating history of the island as well as its geology, flora and fauna. If you have family history from Iona, you can also trace your family tree.

We run trips to the lovely island, ensuring great comfort and experiences at a great price. So if you’re planning on visiting Iona, make sure that you travel with us - we have a number of tours such as the popular Three Isles Tour or simply the Mull and Iona Tour. For more details on all our trips to Iona, check out the main Scottish Islands Tour page.

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