St.Columba`s Bay, at the south end of Iona, is believed to be the place where St.Columba and his fellow monks landed on Iona in 563. The walk is strenuous in places, so it is advisable to get directions and advice before setting off. If walking with friends, try some times of silence, using your senses of touch, sight, hearing, and smell to enhance the experience. Enjoy the birds and the wild flowers (check them out elsewhere on the website) and pause at the places of interest along the way, for example -
Sithean (The Hill of the Angels) Nearing the end of the road leading to the west side of Iona, on the left, at the entrance to a farm of the same name, is a rounded hill. Here it is said that St.Columba was seen in prayer, surrounded by angels.
Continuing on, the Bay at the back of the Ocean lies ahead. Due west is Labrador! The Gulf Stream gives Iona its mild climate. The common grazing land, the Machair, is also an 18 hole golf course. Machair is a feature of all west facing coasts of Hebridean islands. In winter Atlantic storms blow fine sand over the land, and in the spring and summer new grass and a carpet of tiny wild flowers grows through. As you walk south across the Machair, be aware of parallel ridges in the turf. These are evidence of the ancient method of strip farming, and may be seen in other parts of the island.
A steep, rocky track leads uphill to Loch Stanoig. This provided Iona`s water supply until the 1980`s. but water is now piped across from Mull. Keep the loch on your right hand side, and continue south. Before long St.Columba`s Bay is before you. At this viewpoint (see photograph) look west. The hill with a cairn on top is marked as the Hill of the Back to Ireland, and it is said that St.Columba climbed this hill to make sure that Ireland was out of sight before he settled and built his monastery.
At St. Columba`s Bay rest and enjoy the peace, the sense of history and spirituality. The conical piles of stones at the west side are ancient, and remain a mystery, despite various theories put forward by historians. Marvel at the variety of richly coloured pebbles, including white and green Iona marble. Especially prized are “St.Columba`s Tears” (some call them “Mermaid`s Tears”) small, teardrop shaped pebbles of pure translucent green. It is said that to carry one in your pocket is a protection against drowning. Some people like to choose 2 pebbles here, one to represent something negative which you want to leave behind. This one is thrown into the sea. The other is to take home as a reminder of a new beginning or commitment, perhaps made during your stay on Iona.