Too late for a trip to the Isle of St Kilda, ferries stop at the end of September but Iona. Hmmm, I think I’ve heard of it. You can take a ferry to Mull, then on to Iona.
Checking out Iona and what was on offer found the name of a local storyteller, Jan Sutch Pickard. She lived on the Isle of Mull and would be on Iona the next day and was happy to meet for a coffee.
And so next day, early ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull, a bus trip across the Isle and then a brief ferry ride to the Isle of Iona. It has long been known as a place of spiritual retreat and is often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland; as, in 563AD, this was the first place in Scotland that St Columba landed after being banished from Ireland.
So my local guide started my pesonalised tour. The small Island half way across to Iona, “Eilean nam Ban” (Woman's Island), so called because Colomba had banned women (and cows) fromThe Isle and so the wife’s of the Abbey workers were sent to this small wind swept dot.
Over the centuries the monks of Iona produced countless elaborate carvings, manuscripts and Celtic crosses. Perhaps their greatest work was the exquisite Book of Kells, which dates from 800 AD, currently on display in Trinity College, Dublin. Shortly after this in 806 came the first of the Viking raids when many of the monks were slaughtered and their work destroyed.
In the Middle Ages it became the site of a Benedictine abbey, and over the centuries it has attracted many thousands of people on their own pilgrim journeys.
It’s latest incarnation as the world famed Iona Community started in Glasgow in 1938 by George MacLeod, in the context of the poverty and despair of the Depression. From a dockland parish in Govan, Glasgow, he took unemployed skilled craftsmen and young trainee clergy to Iona to rebuild both the monastic quarters of the mediaeval abbey and the common life by working and living together, sharing skills and effort as well as joys and achievement.
That original task became a sign of hopeful rebuilding of community in Scotland and beyond. The experience shaped – and continues to shape – the practice and principles of the Iona Community.
Retreats are still offered, jobs are always up for grabs and you can volunteer your services as well, check it out on http://www.iona.org.uk/