Iona, Scotland: A Thin Place
What Is a "Thin Place"?
"There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. A contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge gives this description."
There are thin places throughout the world. One of them is in and near Asheville, North Carolina. I don't know if it is closer to Heaven, but there is something there that is closer to the Divine.
When one is in a 'Thin Place' one can feel the powerful energy and know that there is more than the world that our five senses knows.
Having experienced this in Asheville, I wanted to go to other 'Thin Places' and Iona, an island to the Northwest of Scotland, is certainly one of those places.
Beauty, Quiet and Spirit on Iona, Scotland
Iona is a small and beautiful island in the Hebridean chain off western Scotland. It is a 'thin place'.
It is the home of 125 people, many of whom are from families that have been there for centuries; some who came to experience the Iona religious community and never left.
Iona is the location of the Iona Community, a religious organization where thousands of people have made pilgrimage over the centuries. One can immerse oneself in spiritual practice while giving service to the Community.
Iona is an uniquely beautiful island 1 mile wide by 3 miles long that contains rolling hills, a sheep pasture that doubles as a golf course, and geological wonders with some of the oldest rocks in the world. It is the entry to Staffa, one of the most amazing geological formations we have.
It is the source of a vacation for people who want a very quiet place to be, who want peace, beauty a chance to meditate, whether religious or not. Many people go for a day trip, others stay at the lovely inns serving gourmet foods, still others emmerce themselves in the Abby Community.
It is a wonderful place to go.
Main Street on Iona, Scotland; Facing the Bay
Main Street on Iona and The People Who Live There
'Main Street' Iona is a row of old stores and houses that face the bay where the ferries pull in.
Most of the stores are craft shops that have been in the same family for generations. I bought some hand made silver jewelry from a young women whose family had been weavers operating out of the same store where they worked. As an omage to her family and with respect for their tradition, she made weavings out of metal strips in addition to her Celtic jewelry.
There is a convenience store that sells groceries and souvenirs. The Abby has another souvenir/book shop. There is the Abby itself, the ruins of the nunnery, and a lot of meadows grazing sheep that double as gold courses. There is a large inn and a couple of small ones, all serving gourmet food. I believe the small ones are open as bars and there may have been one for the locals.
That is it. If you want a restful vacation, this is the place.
St Columba Lands on Iona
St Columba was one of the men who entrenched Christianity in the British Isles. He was also vital in the monastic movement, and initially lived on barren Iona in a tent like shack to live what he preached.
He came to Iona, alone, and landed at what is now Columba Bay on the back side of the island.
Each year young people from the Iona Religious Community make a stone labyrinth on the Bay. Having been there for the summer solstice, I know that it is the sight of that ancient celebration.
The Walk to St Columba Bay
St Columba Bay on Iona, Scotland
I was told that you can hire a horse drawn carriage to go to St Columba Bay on the other side of the island. However, we walked. We walked past the houses of those who lived outside the town and through sheep pastures where people played golf.
I am sure that the carriage ride was wonderful, but I enjoyed the walk so much.
On the Bay, where St. Columba landed, are many green rocks. Visitors were encouraged to take some home. I am so glad I did. They are not only beautiful, but when I hold them I can still feel the powerful energy of that 'Thin Place'.
Beautiful Video With a Feel of The Thinness
This takes me back to the feel of the island, the thinness of it.
Walking the Labyrinth on St. Columba Bay, Iona
St Columba Bay on Iona, Scotland
The Myth About the Food:
I had heard about British food, it was supposed to be dull at best. Scottish food is supposed to be dull and odd.
Wrong! We stayed at the big inn and also ate at the couple of little hotels on the island, the Argyle Inn was one. Every meal, every place, totally delicious, healthy and gourmet.
I will say, however, that haggis was on the menu. It is a specialty that is oatmeal, which I love, cooked in an animal's stomach, which I don't love.
I am adventurous,but I didn't eat haggis
The Ruins of the Nunnery on Iona
The Iona Nunnery is now only a few walls that are taken over by native flowers and vines. Sitting in the middle of it, one can imagine the centuries of women who lived and worshiped there.
It was founded in the 12th century by Reginald of Somerled. His sister was the first prioress. It was occupied until the time of the Reformation.
One does not have to be Catholic or even religious to love this place. The ancient building is alive with history. It is a special prize for the sketch artist or the photographer.
The Nunnery: Iona, Scotland
Walking to Iona Abby, Another 'Main Street'
Iona Abby and Religious Community
Its amazing that so much can be happening on this little island.
The Iona Abbey is the home of one of the three Centers for the Iona community which was founded in 1938 by Reverend George McLeod. The Community has its own liturgies and programs which take place in the Iona Abby.
The Abby originated in the 8th century and is it is believed that the monks there were responsible for the Book of Kells.
In 806 everyone there was found dead; it is believed to be from an attack by the Vikings. While the Nunnery was Augustinian, the monks at the Abbey were Benedictine. The building was rebuilt around 1200 and still stands with additions and renovations.
History buffs will see the tombs of many lords and ladies of the day along the outer walls of the Abbey.
Iona Abby Iona, Scotland
The Weather in Scotland
I was there days before and after the summer solstice which is late June. There were days when we could wear shorts and be comfortable. However, there were days when we wore two shirts, hooded fleece jackets covered with slickers. To be safe, take both.
Don't Miss Staffa with Its Amzaing Geology, Sea Cave and in Late June, Puffins
Any Purchase Here Will Contribute to Heifer International: The Pay It Forward Entrepreneurial Charity
Books about Iona, Scotland
Flip Video Accessories
No, I Did Not Eat the Haggis; But People Did
The Dreaded Haggis (from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course)
1 sheep's stomach
1 sheep heart
1 sheep liver
1/2 lb suet, fresh (kidney leaf fat is preferred)
3/4 c oatmeal
1 ts salt
1/2 ts pepper
1/4 ts cayenne
1/2 ts nutmeg
3/4 c stock
Wash stomach well, rub with salt and rinse. Remove membranes and excess fat. Soak in cold salted water for several hours. Turn stomach inside out for stuffing.
Cover heart and liver with cold water, Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Chop heart and coarsely grate liver. Toast oatmeal in a skillet on top of the stove, stirring frequently, until golden. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Loosely pack mixture into stomach, about two-thirds full. Remember, oatmeal expands in cooking.
Press any air out of stomach and truss securely. Put into boiling water to cover. Simmer for 3 hours, uncovered, adding more water as needed to maintain water level. Prick stomach several times with a sharp needle when it begins to swell; this keeps the bag from bursting. Place on a hot platter, removing trussing strings. Serve with a spoon.
This Small Island Has Every Kind of Terrain
Standing on Iona Looking to Mull
Did you enjoy your virtual trip to Iona?