5 reasons why Iona is the perfect place for a digital detox

Dreamy Iona sits less than a mile off the south western-most tip of Mull. This tiny Hebridean island is renowned for its tranquility, natural beauty and spirituality. A cradle of Christianity in Great Britain, it’s a place of pilgrimage for many. Others come to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, connect with nature and enjoy a slower pace of life. So if you’re feeling frazzled by the 21st century, here are five good reasons to unplug your laptop, turn off your smart phone and head to Iona for a digital detox.

1. Wandering free
Iona is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, so it’s small enough to explore on foot and you would struggle to get lost! Leave your GPS behind and set out to discover beautiful bays, panoramic views and historic sites. You can happily wander for hours. Make sure you climb Dun I, the highest point on Iona. It only rises 100m above sea level, but the view from the top is well worth the trek up! Sìthean Mòr (the ‘Hill of the Angels’) is a grassy knoll that historically has been the setting for many rituals and traditions rooted in both pagan and Christian beliefs. It’s here that St Columba was said to have been seen in prayer, surrounded by angels. Whatever your beliefs, watching the rising or setting sun from this special spot is a magical experience.

2. Back to nature
Iona’s coastline, fields, moorland and bogs are home to a huge variety of wildlife. As you arrive on the ferry you might see dolphins jumping on the boat’s wake or basking sharks swimming up the sound. You’ll also hear the call of gulls and cries of kittiwakes – Iona has a prolific bird population. In the summer listen out for the rasps of corncrakes in the hayfield and skylarks singing high above you. Sea eagles sometimes soar over from Mull. And as for the flora! Iona is a blooming marvelous place to enjoy wild flowers, from wild iris and harebells in spring to orchids and heather in summer. Wherever you wander in Iona, the wonders of nature are all around you.

3. Beautiful beaches
Nothing soothes the soul like a stroll along a secluded stretch of sand. And Iona has brilliant bays by the bucket (and spade!) load. Top of your list should be St Columba’s Bay at the south end of Iona. It’s believed to be the place where St Columba and his fellow monks landed on Iona in 563. It’s a glorious spot to rest and enjoy the peace and quiet. You’ll find richly coloured pebbles, including white and green Iona marble. See if you can find some ‘St Columba’s Tears’, which are small teardrop shaped pebbles of pure translucent green. At the north of the island, Martyrs’ Bay offers stunning views over to Mull. The glistening white sand beach of Traigh Ban Nam Monach is also well worth a visit. Camus Cul an t-Saimh (‘Bay at the Back of the Ocean’) is another vast, sandy bay.

4. A spiritual legacy
Iona Abbey is one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. The abbey was founded by St Columba and his Irish followers and became the heart of the early Scottish church. Little remains of the original buildings, but a strong sense of spirituality remains. 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. Walk down Sràid nam Marbh, ‘the street of the dead’, a route used by pilgrims of the past, and look out for Reilig Odhráin – the cemetery where many ancient Scottish kings were laid to rest. The Augustinian Nunnery is an equally peaceful place. It was founded at the same time as the Benedictine abbey. The garden is a tranquil spot in which to linger.

5. Food, glorious food
Just because you’re on a digital detox doesn’t mean you have to be on a food detox too! Iona is a great place to feast on fresh food that feeds the soul as well as the stomach. Enjoy fabulous local food and views over the Sound of Iona at the St Columba Hotel. The hotel’s organic garden provides much of the salads and vegetables used in the kitchen. The Argyll Hotel also specialises in organic, free range and locally sourced foods. The Martyrs’ Bay Restaurant & Bar, situated at the pier on Iona, is another place to enjoy fantastic food in a stunning location. Finally, head to the Iona Heritage Tearoom at the Iona Heritage Centre in the Old Manse for homemade soup, freshly filled rolls and home baking. The garden is a lovely place to enjoy some quiet time. All these places have Wi-Fi, so you can check your emails too – if you absolutely must!

Find out more about Mull, Iona, Coll & Tiree.

Photos by Morven Bridges