Iona Abbey and Nunnery

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Iona Abbey, on the beautiful island of Iona just off Mull, is one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. The abbey was founded by St Columba and his Irish followers in AD 563 and became the heart of the early Scottish church. As a celebrated focus for Christian pilgrimage, Iona retains its spiritual atmosphere. Little remains of the original buildings. A restored 13th-century medieval abbey, founded by Benedictine monks, now stands on the site of Columba’s church. Beside it there are tall, intricately carved crosses, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries. Visitors follow a route to the abbey taken by pilgrims of old – Sràid nam Marbh, ‘the street of the dead’. Look out for Reilig Odhráin – the little cemetery beside Sràid nam Marbh where many ancient Scottish kings were laid to rest. The Iona Community continues the work and the abbey church and cloister are in daily use. The Augustinian nunnery was founded at the same time as the Benedictine abbey and is one of the best-preserved medieval nunneries in Britain. Much of the ruins date from the 14th century and you can still see some of the fine carved details on the stonework. The garden is a tranquil spot in which to linger.