When I was initially planning my Scotland itinerary, Iona didn’t quite make the cut. I knew I wanted to visit Mull and it seemed like there was more than enough to keep me occupied for 2 days. But as I did more research and learned more about Iona, the more I wanted to go.
In the end, I had to rejig my initial plan and ended up staying one night in Mull and one night in Iona. And I tell you, I am so glad I did that! Iona is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to, and the island is so peaceful. I felt like being there truly calmed my soul.
How to get there:
The ferry journey between Mull and Iona takes only 10 minutes and a round-trip ticket costs £3.30 per adult passenger. The ferry departs from Fionnphort which is about a one-hour bus journey from Craignure (Bus 496/96). The bus fare is £14 round-trip.
Where I stayed:
A lot of travel advice out there says that Iona is a day trip, and yes it is small and compact enough to be done as one. But when I found out about Iona Hostel, I had to stay at least one night there. It just looked so beautifully remote and just something about it felt so special to me. I’m pleased to say that it definitely lived up to my expectations
Iona Hostel is located on the north end of Iona, and really there’s nothing but green and blue when you’re there. It’s absolutely stunning. It was about a 30 minute walk from the pier, and since I had time to kill before I could check in, I lolled about on the green fields and just basked in the sunshine and expanse of blue sea in front of me.
The hostel was one of my absolute favourite experiences. There’s a lovely, homey living room which opens into the kitchen and everyone was just open and friendly. I had some interesting and fun conversations with people I just met and it was genuinely one of the loveliest evenings I had while in Scotland.
What I did:
To maximise my day, I took the first bus which was at 7.50am! I almost missed it, but the driver was kind enough to stop and take us two stragglers (me, and my new friend Donna whom I met at the hostel) on board.
Upon reaching Fionnphort, we looked for the boat tours to Fingal’s Cave and was lucky enough that one of the boat was just going to leave and could take us on. The tour cost £30.
It was a beautiful, beautiful day and the 35 minute boat ride to Staffa – the island where the cave is located- was wonderfully scenic. We had one hour on the island itself to visit the cave and roam around.
The cave was stunning and one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen. After taking a whole bunch of pictures, I went up to walk around the top of the island and enjoy the gorgeous views of the sea. You really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere; it was pretty amazing!
Then we were back on the boat and they made a stop on Iona for those of us who wanted to disembark there.
Iona is so quaint and charming. During the afternoon, it was filled with day trippers. Some notable sights are Iona Abbey (first photo above) and the ruins of an ancient nunnery (second photo). But my favourite part of the day was hanging out in the quiet north end of the island, where few people wander. It was so serene and picturesque. It felt like my soul was being recharged.
After I checked in at the hostel, I took a walk back to the centre of town to buy some supplies for dinner and to take in the atmosphere. Only a handful of people were still around as most of the day trippers had left. It felt so quiet and calm; I really enjoyed that feeling of stillness.
The next morning, it was a chilly, misty walk to the ferry pier. Such an atmospheric goodbye! I took the 9.00am ferry back to Fionnphort, then the bus to Craignure (immediate connection), then the ferry back to Oban (about a 30 minute wait, if I remember correctly). From Oban, it was another 4-5 hours of train travel to Glasgow, my next stop.
Tips for travelling on public transport
Check the bus and ferry schedules! Buses on the Scottish isles may not run frequently especially during the “off season”, so you have to do the legwork to make sure there are public transportation options that work for your itinerary. There are some bus/ferry connections that sync up so that there’s minimal waiting time . It takes some forward planning but it is definitely do-able! On Iona, your best transportation is your own two legs so be prepared to walk.
Staying one night on Iona was an awesome decision, and once I was there, I wish I had one more day to take in the tranquility of the island. Yes, travelling to Iona takes time… but it is definitely worth it. There is no place like Iona, and I hope that I get to chance to visit again.