IONA ABBEY FAQs
Click on the sections below to find out all you need to know about your stay at Iona Abbey.
If you still have questions after reading these FAQs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with IonaAbbeyBookings@iona.org.uk
What rooms are available?
There are 21 guest rooms. Of these, 5 are single, 11 are twin, 3 are triple and 2 are quadruple.
Are some rooms fully accessible?
Yes, there are 3 single bedrooms that are fully accessible. One is en-suite with an accessible bathroom; two have easy access to a second accessible bathroom. There are no twin bedrooms that are fully accessible.
Do you have other single rooms?
Yes. Two bedrooms on the second floor (no lift) are single bedrooms.
How are accessible and single rooms allocated?
We do our best to meet the needs of all our guests; however, this is not always possible. The three accessible rooms and the other two single rooms are allocated on the basis of the greatest needs. If you require an accessible room or a single room, it is important that you let us know at the time of booking and give us your reasons for your request.
How are guests allocated to rooms?
The small number of accessible rooms and single rooms are allocated to those with particular needs. It is therefore important that you inform us of your needs when you make the booking.
Twin rooms are usually allocated to couples, relatives or friends. Guests who are part of a larger group will often be allocated to triple or quad rooms.
If you book as an individual, it is likely that you will be allocated to a twin, triple or quad room and will be sharing with people that you don’t know at the start of your stay (you will of course know them soon after you arrive).
Will I be sharing with a stranger?
Possibly. For the reasons listed above, it is entirely possible that you will be sharing a room with a person or people you don’t know. This is particularly true for someone making a single booking, but might also be the case for couples. We cannot guarantee that anyone will be in a single room or will not be sharing with a stranger.
Are all meals provided?
Yes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on each full day along with dinner on arrival day and breakfast on departure day. Some lunches are packed lunches (sandwiches, fruit and snack) in order to give you the freedom to explore the island at your leisure.
What is served for breakfast?
Breakfast consists of porridge or cereals, toast and a selection of spreads, yoghurt and fruit.
What food is served at the main meals?
In line with the Iona Community’s ethical food policy, food is mostly vegetarian. Locally produced meat is served once a week at Sunday lunch. Local fish is occasionally served too. Vegetarian options are available at every meal.
Does the Abbey cater for special diets?
Yes, the Abbey Kitchen caters for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free diets, and does its best to cater for intolerances and allergies (the latter within reason – see next question) as long as they know in advance. Please make sure you enter special dietary requirements for you or any members of your group at the time of booking.
What about very severe allergies?
It depends on the nature of the allergy. We strongly recommend that, prior to booking, you contact the Abbey Cook via firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your dietary needs.
Is any alcohol served or sold in the premises?
No. There is a strict ‘no-alcohol’ policy in place in the premises. No alcohol is served, and guests should not bring alcohol into the bedrooms. The two hotels and the Martyr’s Bay Pub have bars open to visitors.
Are towels provided?
Shower towels are provided. Please bring your own beach towel if you intend to go swimming.
Is bedding provided?
Yes, all bedding is provided.
What clothes should I pack?
The weather on Iona is notoriously changeable. It is not uncommon to experience hail, rain, and sunshine on the same day! Iona’s maritime climate means it is rarely very hot or very cold. It is, however, often windy, and the windchill factor can make it feel really cold. We recommend lots of comfortable layers that you can easily put on and off, along with waterproof jacket and trousers if you have them. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are highly recommended.
Do I need to bring my medication with me?
Yes! Iona has no pharmacy or doctor surgery. The nearest surgery is in Bunessan on the Isle of Mull, and the nearest pharmacy is in Tobermory (a two-hour drive). It is therefore essential that you bring an ample supply of your routine medication as well as any additional medications you might need. The Spar shop on Iona does sell basic essentials such as paracetamol.
Are toiletries provided?
There is liquid soap in the bathrooms, but no shampoo or shower gel. The Spar shop on Iona sells basic options for toiletries.
Are hair dryers provided?
No, but the Housekeeping team can lend you one.
Are napkins provided?
No. If you need or prefer to have a napkin at mealtimes, please pack and bring your own. We don’t provide napkins for environmental and cost reasons. If you do decide to bring your own, we ask that you take care of your own napkin, i.e. please don’t leave it in the refectory, and wash it yourself as needed.
Can I travel to Iona by public transport?
Do I need to book in advance?
It is possible to book a foot passenger ticket for the Oban ferry in advance, but is not essential as there is no restriction on numbers. Tickets can be purchased on arrival at the ferry terminal.
Tickets for the bus across Mull cannot be booked in advance, but the buses are generally double-decker and have plenty of seats.
How often do buses run?
On the summer timetable (roughly between the end of March and the end of October), there are three buses per day from Craignure to Fionnphort: early morning, midday and late afternoon. They all connect with ferries from Oban and to Iona. If you are on the late bus, don’t worry if it is running late: the last ferry of the day to Iona always waits for the bus to arrive before setting off.
How do I get to the Isle of Mull by car?
There are two main routes from mainland Scotland to the Isle of Mull, Oban-Craignure and Lochaline-Fishnish. Both are operated by CalMac.
How soon do I need to book my car on the ferry?
The Oban-Craignure route can be very busy, especially in summer. It is therefore advisable to make a booking with CalMac as soon as you know your dates of travel. The Lochaline ferry is a shuttle ferry and does not take advanced bookings.
Tickets for the Iona ferry cannot be booked in advance: the ferry shuttles between Fionnphort and Iona throughout the day, and you take the first available one. The only exception is if you travel on the Winter timetable (typically from end of October to end of March) and wish to travel on the last ferry of the day at 6 PM. This last ferry has to be requested with CalMac with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice.
Can I take my car to Iona?
No, unless you have a blue badge. If you do, you can apply for a temporary permit from the Argyll and Bute Council. If you don’t, there is a free car park in Fionnphort next to the Columba Centre.
When I arrive, will I be met at the jetty?
On arrival day, our van is at the Iona pier from 3 PM to welcome new arrivals. You will be given the option to drive with the van to the Abbey or leave your luggage in the van and make your way on foot (a 10-minute walk). If you choose to walk, make your way to the Welcome Centre/Iona Community shop (the white building opposite the Abbey) and introduce yourself to a member of staff. One of them will take you to the Abbey refectory where you will be welcomed by our Housekeeping team.
Should you arrive earlier than 3 PM, feel free to leave your luggage in the shed by the jetty (it is perfectly safe). If you would like access to the Abbey premises before 3 PM, please report at the Welcome Centre/Iona Community Shop and ask a member of staff to take you to the Abbey common room, where you will be able to wait until 3 PM in comfortable and warm surroundings.
Are the premise accessible?
Only partially. Thanks to the 2019/21 refurbishment, the premises are now much more accessible. There are, however, still limitations imposed by the historic building. If you have special accessibility needs, we strongly recommend that you contact the staff on Iona prior to booking so that you can discuss your needs and assess whether they can be met. Please email our office or call 01681 700 404.
Is there a mobility scooter on site?
Yes. A modern scooter with good battery range and easy to use. No good on sand but fine on roads and grass. The scooter is made available to any guest that requests it. Best done prior to arrival so that we can make sure it is fully charged. When more than one guest in any one week requests the use of the scooter, we ask that they work out between themselves who can use it when.
Is there WIFI in the Abbey?
Yes, although not everywhere in the premises, and rather slow and unreliable. Fibre has not made it to Iona yet, and the thick walls of the Abbey are a challenge!
Is there an induction loop system?
Yes, there is an induction loop system in the Abbey Church and also in the Refectory.
Is there a laundry service?
No. Please bring sufficient change of clothes for the duration of your stay.
What if clothes get wet?
There is a drying room for guests’ clothes and footwear. Please ask a member of the Housekeeping team.
What are the daily “Guest Tasks”?
As part of our intentional building of community, guests are asked to help with routine tasks for half an hour a day. Guests are typically split between three staff teams: Kitchen (chopping), Housekeeping (cleaning and mopping), and Sacristy (candles and cleaning).
When is worship in the Iona Abbey?
A fundamental foundation to our community life on Iona is the ecumenical morning and evening worship, to which guests, staff and visitors are warmly welcome. During the season the morning service is at 9 AM with the exception of 8 AM on Friday (to suit departing guests) and the 10.30 AM communion service on Sunday. The evening service is at 9 PM. Keep an eye on our daily worship page for updates and changes during the winter months. Worship is usually led by members of the Iona Community team on Iona, with support by guests.
Can I play a part in the Iona Community worship?
Yes. There will be plenty of opportunities to do so whilst on Iona such as reading, writing a prayer, playing a musical instrument, or singing. If you are an ordained minister and would be interested in leading worship, please email the Abbey Warden in good time prior to your arrival.
What are the options for the Tuesday Pilgrimage?
We offer two pilgrimages: an off-road one and an on-road one:
The off-road pilgrimage takes all day and covers 7 to 9 miles (depending on the route chosen at the start) across the island. It is boggy and rocky in many places. The walk therefore requires a reasonable level of fitness and sturdy walking boots that protect the ankles. There are a number of stops along the way for a reflection and a prayer, as well as breaks for a sandwich lunch and for tea and flapjack in the afternoon.
The on-road pilgrimage takes up to 2 hours and makes its way leisurely from the Nunnery to the Abbey. It mixes past and present – from life of the nuns in medieval times to life on the island today.