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Home Travel StoriesAndy's Scottish Expedition

Walking On Iona

By Andy Gray

Day 6: Walking on Iona (10.8 miles on feet + 3.2 miles on bike)

Ruined building on the small island of Iona Scotland

I’d always planned on a day off from the bike today so that I could visit Iona which is a small island off the westerly end of Mull. It allows no vehicles apart from locals & deliveries which is just as well as there is only one road. I’ve always fancied visiting due to a song Peace of Iona written by Mike Scott of the Waterboys.

I didn’t rush to get up due to the fact there were heavy showers all night which continued into the morning. I’d still left by 09:30.

Rode to the ferry in my walking gear & waterproofs with my tank bag to act as a day sack. Due to no phone or internet I wasn’t sure about the time for the next ferry but got there just as one was about to leave. It’s only a 10 minute ride (£3.60 return) but pretty bumpy probably due to the current between the two islands.

The island has two small hotels, a few B&Bs, some pods, one campsite, two or three cafes, three gift shops and a small Spar. All of which are very near the ferry dock. Apart from that there are a few houses and farms outside of the centre but not a lot else.

There are two walks, a shorter one to the north (1.5 miles each way) and a longer one to the south (2.5 miles each way). I’d planned to start with the shorter one as it took in most of the sights.

Started with the ruins of an ancient nunnery then carried on past the community visitor centre & cafe, the abbey and out into the wilds. At the end of the road, there are a couple of paths going to the two beaches. One looking north towards the Inner Hebrides & Tiree and the other looking west back towards Mull.

Looking through the tall narrow slit window out to the countryside beyond the abbey
Sands, hardy grasses, rocks and the sea under turgid skies of Iona

Headed back towards “town” but stopped to visit the Iona Abbey. Being run by Scottish Heritage, it’s not exactly cheap at £9 but you can have an audio guide to listen to as you walk around. The abbey's site dates back to 563 AD but isn’t original and has been rebuilt over the centuries. All quite interesting and I found that the type of cross in the photos originate from Iona. 

The Abbey at Iona, stone built and church-like in the remote setting
The distinctive cross with a circle around the cross centre, carved from stone
A strange sculpture in the courtyard of the abbey

After a visit to the chapel part of it - where someone was getting piano lessons - and the museum, it was time to head to town for lunch. The largest cafe & bar looks out towards Mull and as the sun had broken through the clouds it was an ideal place for lunch. Cornish Pasty(!) & chips hit the spot but now I needed to walk it off by heading on the longer southern walk.

Looking across the calm waters with tables and chair from the cafe in the foreground

This heads south along the road before heading west along the same road. The showers started again so it was back on with the waterproofs. The path at the end of the road goes down to another beach after crossing a disused golf course.It still has some flags & tees but didn’t look used. Another path heads south over the hills & moorland, this was the one for me.

Very soggy and rocky uphill so it was hard going for me in my waterproof walking shoes, not boots. Eventually it heads down and I couldn’t decide whether to continue or turn back but knew I’d regret not going down to the beach. This was steeper than the uphill and very marshy at the base as all the rain had to go somewhere.

The beach at the end was stony with a large rocky outcrop splitting it into two. There were plenty of rocks in the water taking the force of the incoming tide & wind.

Green slopes, rocky outcrops, harsh moorland and remote views on the isle of Iona
Sharp rocks breaking the waves coming into the shore at Iona

Now I admit, the walk back was hard work especially after sitting on a bike for the last week. Got back to town and had to stop at the cafe for tea & cake before getting the ferry back to Mull.

Returned to camp, had a shower, hung things out to dry and put things on charge.

Wanted to go back to the pub to see if the restaurant was actually open tonight but there was no way I was walking again. After the next set of showers passed, I headed out and saw lights & people in the restaurant part of the pub - joy & proper food. Expensive but excellent quality at Keel Row.

In total, I’d walked almost 11 miles today and my legs & feet are feeling it now.


Contact Ren via ren@bikesandtravels.com

Llangollen Andy starts his trip to Scotland... by going to Wales! It is a long way from London Village to The Highlands though, give the man a break.
Friends And Finally Scotland Day 2 and 3 of Andy's Scottish expedition - and he's only just reached the borders. He's having way too much fun and should be focused on heading North.
Bad Weather, Brilliant Roads Andy's first proper ride into Scotland is proving to be a cracker even if the weather is dire.
Exploring Arran and The Mull Of Kintyre There's wildlife and scenery aplenty for Andy as he explores Arran and The Kintyre Peninsula. "Mixed" weather is keeping him on his toes though.
Easy Onto Mull Andy is taking in the splendid West Coast of Scotland at a sensible pace. From the Kintyre Peninsula to the Isle Of Mull there's a lot to take in.
Walking On Iona Andy is using Shank's Pony to get himself around the small island of Iona. Thing is the island isn't quite as small as Andy's feet had hoped for.
Mulling Around To The Mainland When Tobermory is a major town you know you've been somewhere remote. Andy is making his way up the West Coast of Scotland now.
Bealach na Bà Ain't So Bad Andy is making his excuses for a late start today, but it's all self-inflicted. It's time to be overwhelmed by the not really scary Applecross road.
The Wonder Of The West Coast Andy is up on the West Coast of The Scottish Highlands now, and it shows with his achingly beautiful pictures.
The Wonder Of Even More West Coast Andy is exploring the remote and lonesome shores of the North West of Scotland. Geology, beauty and single track, all in another day's ride in The Highlands.
Out Of The Good Stuff, Into The Weather After The splendour of The Highlands and West Coast of Scotland Andy is now at the top of the country. Is there much to report?
The Scottish North East Coast Andy after reaching the tip of the UK is now meandering his way south along the east coast. Being back in civilisation means proper food in solid buildings.
No Nessie And Wet Cairngorms Andy looks at Loch Ness and The Cairngorms, well, when the weather allows at least.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Andy, now I know why I've never been to Iona, WALKING! 11 MILES!!!!!
A wobbly boat!
Looked a nice island though and all the better for no traffic, traffic and hiking are not a pleasant mix.
Thanks for posting Andy/Ed.
Upt'North.
03/01/2020 04:36:19 UTC
Snod said :-
I fully expect that even on the dark side of the moon there would be a small Spar and maybe even a Gulf petrol station. That's how you know you're in the middle of nowhere.
03/01/2020 11:04:49 UTC
Andy Gray said :-
It’s a good job that I enjoy walking Upt’North. It also means I can eat more cake
05/01/2020 08:17:54 UTC

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