[WORLDKINGS] Exceptional places around the world (P.162) - Iona island (Scotland) : The tiny island with an astounding wildlife


(WorldKings.org) Iona is a tiny tranquil island, barely six kilometres (four miles) long and two kilometres (one mile) wide. Yet its contribution to the history of Scotland and, indeed, the world, is large. It was here that St. Columba founded his famous monastery, and the island is known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. It is also beautiful, with white sand beaches, a treasury of wildlife and plants, and a deep sense of peace.

Iona is low and often swept by the winds that come in off the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Being such a small island, the main settlement, Baile Mòr, is often simply called The Village, and the resident population is tiny — less than 200 — but each year the island attracts 130,000 visitors.

People have lived on Iona for many years, long before St. Columba made landfall. The highest point on the island is only 101 metres (331 feet) and is capped by the remains of an Iron Age hillfort, pre-dating Columba by hundreds of years. However, it was the coming of the Saint that secured Iona’s place in history. After being exiled from his native Ireland, Columba and twelve followers set up the first monastery on the island and began the process of converting the Picts of Scotland to Christianity, followed by the northern English Anglo-Saxon tribes. Iona became renowned as a centre for learning and for spreading the Christian religion.

Iona has a wealth of nature, both on land and, especially, around her shores. The wildflowers here are spectacular, especially in midsummer, with favourites including sea holly, four species of orchid, and thistles, harebells and speedwell.

Birds include the rare corncrake, comical puffins, great northern divers and a wealth of others. Offshore the waters of Iona attract the second largest fish in the world — the basking shark, as well as orca, pilot, and minke whales, three species of dolphin and sometimes the rare and giant sunfish. Add to this the otters and seals around the coast, and it is not hard to see why nature-lovers flock to the island; here they can get close to many different species, all within a tiny geographic area.

The pace of life here is slower than you might be used to, and this serves to add to the magic of the island. Whether it is the deep sense of history, or the peaceful community, or perhaps the beautiful wildlife and plants, or the awe-inspiring sunsets, Iona is a place that stays with you, and many people return to time and time again. Truly a mystic isle.

According to theculturetrip.com

Mihan (Collect and edit) (World Records Union - WorldKings.org)


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