“This is travelling at it’s finest.”
Recently I wrote about the Hostel on Iona, a tiny island just off Mull on the west coast of Scotland.
I wrote about its history, about how people have been attracted here for its serenity and spirituality. The people at Iona Hostel recognise this and welcome artists seeking a particular state of mind to their shepherd’s bothy retreat. The main hostel is a gem as well – Scandinavian in its elegant simplicity – it sleeps 22 in a range of room sizes from 2 to 6 and has the most homely communal room with a woodburning stove and views on three sides ‘to die for’.
You are not allowed to bring your car to Iona. Yes, its one of those places. Straight away you know the pace will be different on the island. When you walk everywhere, you experience your environment on a human level, at a human scale. The height of the hill is measured in breaks to catch your breath; the grass is a collection of individuals; you choose to put your foot on that stone or that; your hand feels the rough cold of the stone. The sea is always with you. As you’d expect on this morsel of an island. The sound and smell, the constant rush and fall back between rocks.
The Hostel clearly attracts a swelling of warm affection. The community of comments online features a collection of photographs of stunning wide open vistas rich in golden light of dusk or bright crisp blue skies. Visitors have left comments like:
“This is travelling at it’s finest. It’s because of places like this that you trudge through everything else.”
“A simple elegance of old and new, it speaks of generosity, of quality, as if saying ‘the best for our guests’.”
“Possibly one of the most amazing places I’ve been.”
A good friend once wrote, “I’ll tell you a thing about a good life: It’s broader than it’s long.” It seems like we might find a bit of that good life in Iona.
…”with the best views this side of heaven”…
Iona, one of the Inner Hebrides, is a tiny island, yet justly famous. The north and south ends are rough moorland hills. There’s a low lying route through the middle. The coast is scattered with even tinier islands and inlets. There are wide, pale beaches. It is an island where you are, by necessity, close to nature and by extension to the spiritual. Farming, fishing, wildlife are all around you. The peace and solitude of the island have always brought pilgrims.
Samuel Johnson wrote “That man is little to be envied whose … piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins of Iona.”
The Hostel on Iona understands this. Their website is full of beautifully phrased affection for the island – their words are far more eloquent and informed than mine. It is part of a croft, worked for generations, buried in a wildflower meadow “with the best views this side of heaven”. It sleeps 21 in a variety of room sizes and is snuggly warm with woodburning stove and heaps of insulation. As if that wasn’t tempting enough, a shepherd’s bothy has been wheeled out to the water’s edge which you can stay in too! Explore the pictures and the description – again, they are more lovely than I can do justice to.
Iona has a long history of spirituality. The old, early Christian abbey gives the island the title of ‘Cradle of Christianity’. The great and the good have chosen it as their resting place: Kings of the Picts and of Scotland; musicians and leaders. Still today folk are attracted to its special magnetism as a retreat, an artist’s muse or wildlife lover’s haven.
An island sanctuary for those that seek it
Iona Hostel offer quiet sanctuary for those that seek it. Make time to visit and you may find an Artist in Resident, capturing the light over the sea and the patchwork of Hebridean wildflower meadows. The hostel is simply and comfortably furnished. In a glorious wild setting it is also close to the Islands activities. It has five bedrooms and a friendly open-plan kitchen and living space with a wood burning stove. Find out more about the recent Artist in Resident here.