Iona Abbey

Abbey and Historic Building in Isle of Mull

Iona (Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)

Founded by St Columba, Iona Abbey is noted for its peaceful location, beautiful granite buildings , unique cloister carvings and Celtic crosses.
This beautiful & imposing building stands alone and can be seen as you look to the right from the ferry as you cross the Sound of Iona. Given the population now & size of Iona itself it seems amazing that such a building came to be here but it gives an idea of the importance of Iona as a religious centre when sea travel was the motorway of its time. The Abbey Church was restored by the Iona Cathedral Trustees 1900 to 1910. The Iona Community then restored the monastic buildings from the 1930s to the 1960s.

History of Iona Abbey

The island of Iona was settled long before Columba arrived in AD 563. There is a Bronze Age burial mound, and evidence of an Iron Age hillfort. The Iron Age inhabitants also built the Vallum, or earthwork enclosure, that surround the site of Columba’s 6th-century monastery. Very little remains of the original monastery founded in 563 today. Later, Reginald, the self-styled ‘King of the Isles’, rebuilt on the original site of St Columba’s church in 1200 and invited the Benedictine community to Iona which thrived until the reformation. Columban monks stayed on and joined the community.

The early Columban monks survived repeated Viking attacks in those early years and successfully removed treasures from Iona to Ireland for safety, including the ‘Book of Kells’, the magnificent illuminated manuscript created on Iona. The works of the monastery represented the height of Christian art and learning of the time including the earliest Gaelic poetry and stone carving. As you walk towards the Abbey look out for the carved Celtic High Crosses, once an aid to prayer for pilgrims. Original examples are now housed in the Abbey museum and are well worth a visit.

There has been a vibrant Christian Worship on Iona for 1450 years up to the current day. Nowadays the ‘Iona Community’, founded by George MacLeod in the late 1930s, occupies the Abbey. This ecumenical Christian group works for peace and social justice in communities in Glasgow and beyond. Since 600AD pilgrims have come to pray and receive a blessing at St Columba’s shrine and Iona continues to attract visitors and worshipers for rest and renewal.

Visiting Iona

Iona is reached by public ferry from Fionnphort, Mull. The crossing takes 5 minutes and the walk to Iona Abbey about 10 minutes.

The Iona Abbey appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Isle of Mull!

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Visiting Iona Abbey


9.30am-5.30pm Apr-Sep, 10am-4pm Oct-Mar


adult/child £7.50/4.50

Duration: 3 hours

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