Lonely Ruins on the Isle of Iona


This tiny pile of stones is interesting enough to look at, and the surrounding scenery is truly stunning. But the story behind these weathered ruins fires up my soul.

After two years of saving, planning, and daydreaming, my family made our way to Scotland. We drove a “hired” van all over the country, exploring grand cities and glory of the the middle of nowhere for two weeks. (Believe me, you’ll see and hear plenty more about this trip at Fits and Stops). This particular day had seen us take a bus and two Cal Mac ferry trips to reach our destination on the Isle of Iona.

Iona may be one of the least spectacular island in a country of so many. You can walk the relatively flat island in no time as it is just one mile wide. Just 170 people live there in small settlements, which explains why you’ll see hardly any cars rumbling down the roads. Hotels, tourist shops, homes, schools and a large Abbey are the main traces of humanity here. To think this “wee” isle of Iona was one of the most influential in European and Christian history is astounding.

In 563 AD, an Irish monk named Columba traveled across the sea from his homeland to the remote isle of Iona. He traveled with a few of his friends in order to carry news of Jesus and copies of the Bible to the Pictish people of Scotland who had yet to hear about Christian teachings. (Why they chose an unpopulated island, I couldn’t tell you). They founded a monastery on those grassy shores to serve as a headquarters for what would be a wildly successful missionary endeavor. They set the course of Scotland’s climate of faith for centuries to come, and scribed one of the most famous copies of Christian scriptures ever produced: The Book of Kells.

A modern, rebuilt Abbey is the dominant destination on Iona. But it was the lonely little ruins of a doorway, tucked behind the new abbey that struck my imagination. Could this humble doorway have led into that storied monastery where a simple group of men sparked a movement of faith?

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When have you visited a place with the story as arresting as its beauty? Tell us in the comments below!


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