The Whole Illand is Church Land

Aerial view of Iona Abbey.
Aerial view of Iona Abbey.

Icollumkill, antiently called Iona, lays from Colle to the south and south-east about thirty-six myils of sea, and is distant from the south end of Mulle about one myil of sea. It is two myills in lenth, and almost from east to west, and one mile in bredth. It is very fertill; commodious for fishing and fowling. It hes two fresh water lochs, goud springs, and medicinall herbs.

Port-a-Churaich (St. Columba's Bay), Iona.
Port-a-Churaich (St. Columba’s Bay), Iona.

Here the sea casteth up in one place a number of small stones of divers collours, and transparente, very fair to looke upon; they are really peculiar to the place, for the longer they lay upon the shoar, they reapen and turn more lively in their coulors, yield to the feil, and admits of gouid polishing and engraving. Marble also, of divers colours, and with beautyful vains, is found in this Illand. It hes been counted renound pairtly for the goud discipline of Columbus, who is buried in it, and partly for the monuments of the place; for it has two monastryes, one of monks, another of nuns; a church of considerable dimensions dedicated to Columbus.

Iona Abbey.
Iona Abbey.

This hes been the Cathedrall of the Bishops of the Illes since Sodora in the Ill of Man came into the Englishes hands. In this Illand are many other small chapells; the vestiges of a citie is yet visible in it, which, as some old manuscripts testifie, was called Sodora.

Rèilig Odhrain and St. Oran’s Chapel, Iona.
Rèilig Odhrain and St. Oran’s Chapel, Iona.

Many of the Kings of Scotland, some of the Kings of Ireland and Noraway, were buryet heer. Many tombs appropriat to the families of the Illanders, as ther inscriptions, though now allmost obliterate, do testify; heer the famous Columbus himself was also interred. The coast round about Iona is very bade, full of rocks and violent tides. The whole Illand is Church land, so is also a goud pairt of Tyrie, the Ill of Gonna wholly, and the two ends of Colle. It is remarkable that there is in Iona a few people called to this day Ostiarii, from their office about the Church in Columbus’ tyme; this people never exceed the number of eight persons in perfyte age; this is found to had true, and there is a tradition that for some miscarriage in ther predecessors in Columbus’ tyme this malediction was left them. The inhabitants of all the said Illands are naturally civill and bountiful, right capable of all goud instructions. All thir Illands have been possossed by M’Leane and the cadette of his family.

— Description of Iona by Rev. John Fraser, an Episcopal clergyman in the Highlands, who was the author of a “Treatise on Second Sight,” printed at Edinburgh, 1707; from the collections of MacFarlane of MacFarlane and published in The Spottiswoode Miscellany: A Collection of Original Papers and Tracts, Illustrative Chiefly of the Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, Spottiswoode Society, 1845.

The Ringing Stone

The Ringing Stone, a cup and mark stone, Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
The Ringing Stone, a cup and mark stone, Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, 1892.

A Particularly Good Twitching Season

A Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched in the branches of a Weeping Holly tree.
A Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched in the branches of a Weeping Holly tree.

Before twitchers start booking CalMac ferry tickets to Tiree – it’s not there anymore. Its accidental visit had to be kept secret until it had gone.

An unusual bird, normally seen only in the USA, the Cedar Waxing was photographed in a garden on Tiree.

Just a bit bigger than a house sparrow, it is thought to have been blown thousands of miles off course during its migration, by strong westerly winds.

The brightly coloured fruit-eating bird is so rare in Britain that it has only been recorded previously on two occasions: once in Shetland in 1985;  and once in Nottingham in 1996.

Local RSPB Scotland officer, John Bowler, says: ‘When it turned up in a really exhausted state, the garden’s owner was unable to identify it, so gave me a ring.

‘We get all sorts of unusual birds turning up at this time of year, so I’d no idea what to expect, but I was a bit shocked when I finally saw it.

‘Cedar waxwings are such rare and exotic visitors, that it would normally have attracted a large number of twitchers to the island. However, since it was in a private garden, its appearance had to be kept a secret until after it had gone.

‘It feasted on cotoneaster berries for several days, regaining its strength, and was last seen at the end of September before heading south.’

Twitching is a specific type of birdwatching where people travel, sometimes long distances, to see rare birds, usually species that are non-native to the UK and which are here by accident.

This autumn has proved a particularly good twitching season, with strong winds bringing many rare species to the UK.

(story from