We're going to the Isle of Iona

Monday, June 04, 2007

(Click to enlarge)

Well, I am starting to get a bit excited, more so as I get things figured out. (Like the FACT that Glasgow has TWO train stations and you need to be in the right one for the right train!!)

In about two weeks we hop a jet from Calgary to Glasgow, arriving there at 6:30 the next morning. Then we will try to find a local bus to get us downtown, to the RIGHT train station. From there it's 4 hours north and west to a seaside town called Oban. The train station there is suppose to be close to the Ferry terminal so we will walk that with our luggage.

We hop on a Ferry for an hour which takes us to the Isle of Mull where there is suppose to be a local bus service which will take us the hour ride across the Isle to another port called Fionnphort. There we catch the local ferry for a ten minute ride to the Isle of Iona. From there we walk to our B&B.
Iona has been at the heart of Scotland's religious life since St Columba landed here from Ireland in AD563 and founded a monastery that was to become one of the most important in Europe. Despite attacks by the Vikings in 795, 802, 806 and 825, during which many monks were killed, Christianity clung on here. Iona also remained the burial place of successive Scottish Kings until Macbeth, who died in 1057.

In 1156, Somerled evicted the Norse from western Scotland and became the first Lord of the Isles. His son, Reginald MacDonald of Islay, decided in 1200 to turn Iona into a centre of Christianity important enough to rival anything on the Continent. This involved the building of an Benedictine Monastery to replace the old Columban one; and he also built an Augustinian Nunnery nearby.

Further building work in the late 1400s extended both Abbey and Nunnery and significantly improved the Abbey Church. However, everything changed with the Reformation in the 1560s and Iona Abbey's remote location did not save it from being swept aside in the same way as other monasteries across Scotland.

Columba landed on the Isle 1400 years before I was born, so it has some sense of history. He was about my age right now when he landed there and gave the rest of his life to reaching the Picts with the Gospel. His reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes and there are many stories of miracles which he performed during his work to convert the Picts.

He worked very hard in his evangelistic work, and, in addition to founding several churches in the Hebrides, he worked to turn his monastery at Iona into a school for missionaries. He was also a bit of a poet, having written several hymns and he's credited with having transcribed 300 books personally.

I don't know why I connected with this guy the first time I read of him, but I have and so it is. Now, 1444 years after he landed on the Isle, I shall too, and I'm looking forward to it.

The second week will include a trip by train from Glasgow to London and Toni and Chris place. A bit of touring around there and we will start back north. We are going to spend a day or two in Lauralea's family home town, Kendal.

Then another three hour train ride and we'll be back in Glasgow for our last night.

Our flight leaves early the next morning.


  1. Me too. From the moment I read about Columba and Iona I was fascinated. What's with that? Almost compulsively I have dreamed of that remote day when Columba and crew, in a primitive Irish boat, beached somewhere on the east side of the island. Why did he leave Ireland? Why Iona? Was anyone there? From that most obscure of places something very permanent arose.

    Anyway, good for you for going.

  2. Welcome back to the "correct" side of the "duck pond"

    I hope & pray that you enjoy your stay in this small(ish) country which has a big heart for God

    god bless

  3. Hey Randall,
    I've been reading your blog from time to time (as well as Gateway's) and am so thrilled for you.. have a great trip. I'm also jealous, as I want to go to Iona someday!!!


  4. So you ARE going by boat. Now THAT should be memorable (and I'll pray the sea is calm for you!).

    You have chosen to use the train? I've not done that journey, but the one from Edinburgh is interesting in places. I'd still recommend flying, but on the other hand a long journey like that will give you time to reflect on leaving Iona. When you have an ETA/timetable let us know.

    Looking forward to seeing you guys again.


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