Staffa and Iona

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The Isle of Staffa is composed of vertical, hexagonal basalt columns similar to those at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The cliffs themselves are a sight, but an additional attraction is cathedral-like Fingal’s Cave. From an anchorage in the Sound of Iona, we ran the tender over to Staffa, then spent the afternoon exploring the Isle of Iona, including 13th-century Iona Abbey.

Trip highlights from August 20th, 2017 follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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Sound of Iona

Anchored in the Sound of Iona with 13th-century Iona Abbey in the background.
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Isle of Staffa

One of the reasons we’d stopped at Iona was to run the tender over to visit the remarkable Isle of Staffa, seven miles from Iona. Staffa has no sheltered anchorage, but the weather was so calm that we even might have anchored Dirona there. Taking the tender was faster and easier though.

‘Staffa’ is norse for ‘Pillar Island’—the cliffs around Staffa are composed of vertical, hexagonal basalt columns similar to those at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The cliffs themselves are a sight, but an additional attraction is cathedral-like Fingal’s Cave, visible on the right with people sitting outside (click image for a larger view).

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We landed the tender on the northeast side of the Isle of Staffa to go ashore.
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A picnic lunch overlooking the boat landing at the Isle of Staffa with the Isle of Mull in the background across the water. We’d considered landing the tender there, but couldn’t find a safe spot that would be out of the way of the tour boats.
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Staffa Tours

Staffa Tours boat arriving through the narrow pass in the rocks to drop off a load of passengers at the landing. The boat in the background had just backed out after debarking its load of tourists. The Isle of Staffa can be a busy place.
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The Causeway

Walking down The Causeway toward Fingal’s Cave. This was very much like Giant’s Causeway.
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Fingal’s Cave

A walkway runs part of the way inside Fingal’s Cave. This is looking to the head from about halfway inside.
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Causeway Tip

Looking southwest to The Causeway tip, with the the Isles of Mull and Iona visible in the distance.
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Outside Cave

Jennifer standing outside spectacular Fingal’s Cave. It’s late in the day and most of the tourists had left the cave area, so we had it all to ourselves.
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Cave by Tender

Before leaving Staffa, we ran the tender partway into Fingal’s Cave. Even though conditions were calm, the water still surged into the cave so we backed in to ensure the swell didn’t drive us in.
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The Great Face

A final look to the columns west of Fingal’s Cave, collectively known as ‘The Colonnade” or “The Great Face”.
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Loch Bute

Back at the Isle of Iona, the CalMac ferry Loch Bute was just departing for Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull, while a Staff Tours boat was arriving.
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Walking past the grocery store, we remembered we’d forgotten to buy enough tortilla shells so picked some up on the way by.
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The Low Door

It’s rare for Jennifer to find a door she has to stoop under, but The Low Door pub has one.
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At Anchor

Dirona at anchor in the Sound of Iona, viewed across the graveyard adjacent to the Iona Monastery.
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Iona Abbey

We spent an hour or so touring through Iona Abbey. Benedictine Monks lived, worked and worshipped at the abbey from about 1200 until the Protestant Reformation in 1560. Most of the abbey dates from that period, but there have been major restorations since.
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Abbey Church

The Abbey still is in use today and supports a flourishing spiritual community. The Abbey Church has hymn books in a number of different languages.
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Book of Kells

A copy of The Book of Kells, a lavishly illustrated Gospel manuscript, on display at the Iona Abbey museum. St. Columba landed at Iona from Ireland in 563 and established a monastic community with a goal of Christianizing Scotland. The Book of Kells was transcribed at Iona and later taken to Ireland for safekeeping from 9th-century raiding Vikings.
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Dun I

The top of 328ft (100m) Dun I has sweeping 360 degree views. This is looking southeast across the Sound of Iona. Dirona is visible at anchor slightly left of center and the abbey is at the right.
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Argyl Hotel

Refreshing local ciders on the lawn at the Argyl Hotel overlooking the Sound of Iona with Dirona visible as a white speck in the distance to the left of the moored boats. We’d had a long, but enjoyable day. The hotel was booked solid for dinner, so we instead had a great meal at the nearby Martyr’s Bay restaurant overlooking the sound.
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The Sound of Iona is exposed to Atlantic swell, so we put out the flopper stopper to reduce boat roll. The plate often was trailing well aft of the pole in the current that rushes through the sound. Fortunately the current was slack the next morning when we needed to retrieve it.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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