(Scottish Gaelic: Ì Chaluim Chille) – Isle of the Saint – Icolmkill (Anglicised version) and and Eilean Idhe – Isle of Iona (from Ioua) or derived from Ivova (Yew Place) a very old name.
There are many early variants on Iona’s name all derived from different languages including, Norse, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Latin and English. However, for all of the previous names and their roots, Iona it now is and will probably remain.
A small island (1 mile x 4 miles) located to the west of the Isle of Mull and reached by a short ferry trip from Fionnphort on the Ross of Mull.
This small island is known throughout the world and has been a place of pilgrimage throughout its long history. It has a small population and is still farmed. The ‘Village’ located at the ferry terminal is called Baile Mòr and has a primary school, post office, shop and restaurant. The Argyll and St Columba Hotels are located in the village.
Iona Abbey, now an ecumenical church, survived the middle ages and is said to be the best preserved building of its kind in the Western Isles. The ancient burial ground at the Abbey is the resting place for several Scottish Kings and for John Smith, Labour Party Leader.
An inventory in 1549 stated that 48 Scottish, 8 Norwegian and 4 Irish Kings were buried at the Abbey.
The island was owned by the Duke of Argyll who sold it to Hugh Fraser (of the House of Fraser, Harrods, George Outram (company), and Whyte and Mackay) in 1979 who in turn donated it to the National Trust for Scotland.
Once feely open to everybody, the Abbey, now cared for by Historic Scotland, can still be visited but admission fees are charged. The small pent-roofed building on the tower is a comparative recent addition.
There is a wealth of history recorded about Iona and it is worth a visit for this alone. The island is also very beautiful with superb white sand beaches and scenery. There are Corncrakes resident on Iona together with numerous species of wild flowers and birds.
A visit to the Isle of Mull is not really complete without making the journey south to Fionnphort to visit Iona.
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