Pilgrims wanting to deepen their connection to the Celtic Christian traditions of the British Isles come to this windswept island off the coast of Scotland. The Irish monk Columba (also known as Columcille) founded a monastic community here in 563, and under his guidance Iona became a center for culture and learning famous throughout Europe. At its height, about 150 monks lived on Iona, some later becoming missionaries who founded monasteries in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England. The modern revival of Iona dates to 1938, when George MacLeod founded the ecumenical Iona Community. The community maintains an active presence on Iona, leading worship services and retreat programs and spearheading the growing interest in Celtic Christianity.
Just three miles long and one mile wide, the rocky island offers a landscape little changed from when Columba walked its paths, with white sandy beaches, heather moorland, rocky promontories, and dramatic views of the sea.
Did You Know? The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels that is one of the masterpieces of Celtic art, was likely created on Iona during the eighth century.
Learn more at Scotland’s Iona
Next site: Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.