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Hebridean Island Jewels

The Wonders of Mull, Iona & Staffa

25th – 31st May 2019

Highlights

A 7 day long journey of exploration of the stunning Hebridean Isles of Iona, Staffa and the Ross of Mull, encountering these wonderful places through their landscape, history, geology and folklore and the chance to get a bit creative! 

  • Visit an award-winning ecocroft and find out how you can work in partnership with this fragile environment for sustainable farming practices and learn how the seas are the roads of these isles. 
  • Explore the mighty Fingal’s cave on the Isle of Staffa, one of the wonders of the world, immortalised in Mendelssohn’s Hebridean overture and make friends with the delightful puffins!
  • Follow a geological adventure across the land of Iona walking in the footsteps of saints to St Columba’s bay, a chance to walk a labyrinth and find some semi-precious stones and then onto the famous Iona marble quarry.  Treading on some of the oldest rocks on the planet, understand how these beautiful rocks with their stunning colours were created. As you tred the land you can feel the forces that made it.
  • Explore a weaving mill on an organic farm, see the machines at work that make ethical tweeds using natural dyes from the land and sea.
  • Take part in a craft ale and delicious artisan food tasting.
  • Delve into the past at the Hermits cell and Well of the North Wind.
  • Take a walk up Iona’s holy hill to the Well of Eternal Youth.
  • Relax on the magical white shell sand beaches backed by a turquoise sea, breathe in the wonderful air and absorb the very special tranquil atmosphere that personifies Iona.
  • Hear and maybe spot the elusive corncrakes of Iona, see the dolphins which often grace the Sound of Iona.  Walk in the beautiful summer meadows and take a moment to admire some for the islands exquisite native orchids.
  • Learn a few simple printing techniques with a local island artist to create something really special to remember your week by.
  • Stay in an historic house on the land of the original Iona Abby with its own housekeeper, surrounded by fields with outstanding views of the Abbey and to the islands North and South of Iona.
  • Just relax, have a wonderful week and leave this special place feeling really recharged.

 

Mull has been over the centuries mentioned in Gaelic song “the fairest” this beauty runs through its veins geologically and creates the varied landscape you see. With an expert geologist, we will get to understand this landscape.  When thinking of Mull think of it as Iceland 60 million years from now, great forces have created this magical landscape.  A trip to beautiful Ardalanish Bay will bring this all to life. The area has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  With your specialist guide discover intriguing rock formations only found there, including large garnets!  All set within the backdrop of an ancient hill fort. 

“The Isle of Mull is of Isles the fairest,
Of ocean’s gems ‘tis the first and rarest;
Green grassy island of sparkling fountains,
Of waving woods and high tow’ring mountains.”

Dugald MacPhail

The whole trip will be guided showing you some of the secrets of these places and making the landscape come alive.  Your guides for this tour are James Westland and Sarah Ewing.

“Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humanity” 

Gary Snyder

Full Itinerary

Day 1

Travel to the Isle of Iona, by train, ferry, bus or car. Information on connections provided!

Arrive on the island in time for the evening welcome dinner at one of the islands wonderful hotels and settle into your wonderful island home.

Or arrive a bit earlier and have some time to get your first feel for the island.

   

Day 2

After breakfast, we will walk up Dun I, a holy hill and the highest point on Iona to get a sense of the whole island. From the top there are incredible views to the surrounding islands and up towards the Isle of Skye, Eigg, Rum and Muck. Standing on Dun I looking over the Hebridean islands North and South is quite a humbling and fulfilling experience. We will then visit a sacred holy well perched on its peak named Well of Eternal Youth, with many tales linked to it.

Afterwards, we will venture onto the North of the island to visit a very special award-winning island eco croft.  We will meet with the croft owner who will explain how sustainable farming practices and working in harmony with the land can enrich the landscape creating a diverse habitat, rich in wildlife.  The talk will also include tales about the Western seaboard and ancient maritime traditions in the area, you will gain an understanding of interconnectedness of the islands and how the sea is the highway of this place. right the way from Ireland in the South up to Orkney, Shetland, the Faroe Islands and on to Scandinavia in the North, giving you a different geographic perspective of this sea-bound landscape. This will all be set possibly to the backdrop of the strange cries of the elusive corncrake, hiding in the meadows! We will be served a delicious homemade lunch and the sampling of artisan food products and craft ale tasting.  

Rest of the day is time to relax, maybe have a walk along the beautiful North End Beach.  Many artists are drawn to this end of the island for its light qualities and the stunning different coloured rocks with ‘streams’ of green and red serpentine in them. It is a great place just to sit and contemplate.  Evening at your leisure with the chance to try the delicious offerings at one of the island’s restaurants.

    

Day 3

Full day trip with our guide and renowned geologist and font of knowledge all things stone, James, exploring the landscape and geology of Iona.  Today we begin to understand how these stunningly coloured rocks of Iona were created.  James will explain what we are seeing as we traverse the island.

Iona is very different geologically from the Isle of Mull. The rocks are much older with the oldest dated at over 2000 million years old. The colours of these rocks can be spectacular, especially on freshly wave-washed rock.  After we reach St Columba’s Bay, where the saint is said to have landed we will explore the bay with a chance to find a semi-precious stone, including the famous Iona greenstone.  James will identify the rocks you are looking at for you. Then on to the marble quarry, the marble is a beautiful white colour and has been highly revered since ancient times.  Much of the quarrying equipment is still in place, a good example of industrial archaeology, it is a very atmospheric place. 

Then we slowly wend our way back northwards to see the Spouting Cave with its blowhole and Bay at the Back of the Beach.  The rocks have a distinctive colour – bright red granitic exteriors and dark grey basaltic interiors. They really are conspicuous. It is a wonder to see such art in rock! 

The Bay at the Back of the Ocean is a lovely place with a wonderful expansive feel and a special habitat called Machair, it is a unique habitat full of specialised flower species.   It is also home to Iona’s golf course, which is probably not like many others you have seen, as you are just as likely to encounter a highland cow or sheep on it as a golfer!  Its location is incredible with the backdrop of the sea with its many shades of blue, white sand beaches with curlews and oystercatchers.  A lovely place to finish your Iona exploration.

After this invigorating and interesting day, the evening is at your leisure.

   

Day 4

Morning trip to Staffa to see the incredible towering hexagonal basaltic columns and experience the mighty presence of Fingal’s cave a natural wonder matched with the Giants Causeway in Ireland. You will be struck by the colours and majesty of the place. Make sure to stop at the Wishing Chair on the way to the cave, legend says you are allowed three wishes there!

Meet the Staffa puffins! They are a ground-nesting bird with a very improbable flying shape and brightly coloured beaks, you can get quite close to them if you sit quietly. They are very charismatic, quite comical too and often make low grunting noises!

Afternoon at leisure to explore the very atmospheric 12th century Nunnery, the 13th century Iona Abbey and St Oran’s Chapel and the royal burial mound of Scotland’s Kings at your own pace and in your own time. St Oran’s chapel has incredible acoustics if you fancy singing!  Or just to sit and relax, read, take a walk to one of the beautiful white sandy beaches and absorb the wonderful peacefulness of Iona. Alternatively, explore the array of craft shops and pick up a little something to take home. 

Staffa

“ I have seen a temple not made with hands”  Sir Robert Peel 1837

Day 5

Full day trip over to the Isle of Mull with our geologist James. With James, we will explore the stunning Ardalanish Bay.  It is a great place to see some extraordinary rocks with some very unusual minerals. The rocks here are so unusual the area has been classified an SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest. This includes a spectacular band of rock containing large garnets!

The bay is a great place simply to wander and look at the beautiful multicoloured pebbles on the beach, there is a fascinating selection whilst enjoying wonderful views across the white sands to the Hebridean Isles of Colonsay, Jura and Islay.

Next, we will venture onto Ardalanish farm it is fully organic and the only fertilisers used on the land are compost and seaweed.  The wool from the native breed Hebridean and Manx sheep is woven in the weaving mill and made into throws, scarves, shawls, coats and other items.  The colours, textures and patterns are beautiful.  After a tour of the mill, there will be a chance to browse around the shop.  The mill’s products are shipped worldwide. 

There are several burial cists at Ardalanish and some bronze age vessels were found which are now in the National Museum for Scotland, there are also standing stones but, due to ground-nesting birds in June, we will not visit these sites.

Return to Iona and evening option of a group dinner cooked in your island home with your own chef if all the group would like it (this is at extra charge).

*There is an alternative option to this day trip if the group would prefer of taking a fully manned sail boat out for a day’s adventure, this is an extra charge.

 

    

Day 6

A fun and creative morning of exploration of the landscape through art using monoprinting this is a process suitable for beginners you will be guided in the technique by a local artist. Having explored all the colours and landscapes of Iona and the Ross of Mull and the rock formations this will be a great workshop to recreate pattern and colour that you have seen on your week, or design and create whatever else takes you fancy!  This will make a lovely memento of your special week on Iona.  For those who wish to there is then the option to discover the delights of the Hermits cell and the Well of the North Wind, both hidden in a tiny glen at the heart of Iona.

Afternoon at your leisure, time to just enjoy the sereneness that personifies Iona.

Farewell dinner at one of the island hotels.

During the week there is also the possibility of a relaxing reflexology session with highly experienced island reflexologist (at an additional charge). 

 

Day 7

Say farewell to your new found friends and catch the ferry back to Mull to return to the mainland and your onward adventures.

“Some feelings are to mortals given
With less of earth in them than heaven.”  
  

Sir Walter Scott

Accommodation

On Iona you will be staying in a historic building on land said to have housed the original Iona Abbey. The house is full of interesting books and original 1930’s carpet specially commissioned for the property.  It has outstanding views over the Abbey and to the islands to the North, and a fireplace.  The property is surrounded by fields and meadows and quite often you can hear the corncrakes calling from the garden.  This is your home for the week and for you to relax in as much as you would like, it has a wonderful kitchen with a range cooker if you fancy just staying in.  Please note there is Wifi at the property but no TV, but with those views, books and atmosphere there is little need for a TV. Please note there is only one double bedroom all the rest are twins and the double room will be allocated on a first book basis.

Pricing and Booking

The total cost of this 6 – day tour is £975.

This price is based on double occupancy, some rooms are available on a single occupancy basis on request for an extra fee.

A deposit of £500 will secure your place on any tour; reservations are accepted on a first come first serve basis.  The balance must be paid in full 2 months (60 days) before the start date of the tour. If the balance is not paid by this date, we reserve the right to regard the reservation as cancelled.

To book this tour, please click on the link below and you will be taken to a registration form and upon completion you will be guided to a payment page through PayPal’s secure site.

We very much look forward to welcoming you on your special trip to the Hebrides!

 

Book Now

 

What is included in the tour?

  • Overnight accommodation in a beautiful island home with its own housekeeper. Fees are based on double occupancy, single occupancy at an extra charge.
  • Intimate tour group 10 people maximum
  • Hearty Scottish breakfasts
  • Lunches and dinners as noted on the tour
  • Craft ale/cider and artisan delicacies tasting
  • Personal full-time tour guides with expert local knowledge
  • All transportation costs to sites listed on the Itinerary

For more details please see additional information

Additional Information

What is included in the tour?

  • Accommodation in a beautiful island home with its own housekeeper. Fees are based on double occupancy, single occupancy at an extra charge.
  • Intimate tour group 10 people maximum
  • Hearty Scottish breakfasts
  • Lunches and dinner as noted on the tour
  • Artisan food and craft ale/cider tasting
  • Admissions to all attractions listed on the tour itinerary
  • All transportation to sites listed on the itinerary
  • Personal full-time tour guides with expert local knowledge

What is not included?

  • Airfare (we can offer guidance on best ways to book)
  • Expenses before and after the tour
  • Lunches and dinners (except where specified)
  • Any side trips or excursions guest do outside of the set itinerary
  • Gifts, souvenirs, laundry, cleaning, telephone calls, telexes, faxes, cables, wines, liquors, beer, mineral water, soft drinks and incidental expenditures
  • Porterage – we carry our own bags, always
  • Tips for tour guides, hotel staff

Weather 

Scotland is a land of sunshine, mists, wind, rain and anything else it feels like doing.  Conditions can change quickly but tours will not be cancelled due to poor weather. There might be slightly altered itineraries but tours will still go ahead.  The most important thing is to be prepared for all weather conditions to ensure you are comfortable.  Some of the most amazing photos can be taken just before or after storms the light can be incredibly intense and certainly brings you closer to nature!  Highland locals would say it is possible to experience all four seasons in one day and if you don’t like the weather – just wait 20 minutes!

What to bring

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Walking pole (if required)
  • Sturdy shoes or walking boots
  • Rucksack
  • Diary and paints if you like to record your trip
  • Swimming Costume/Trunks – yes people do swim in Scotland! 

What is the Cancellation Policy

In the event of cancellation before 26th March 2019.  Your deposit will only be refunded if your place is filled by someone else, in which case it will be refunded minus an administration fee. 

In the event of cancellation on or after 26th March 2019, no refunds will be issued unless your place can be filled by someone else, in which case all monies paid will be refunded, minus an administration fee.

All cancellations must be received in writing.

Smoking Policy

Please note all properties we stay in, follow a strict no smoking policy, no smoking is allowed on or near the properties or whilst in transit from site to site.  Scotland has strict no smoking laws.  It is now illegal to smoke in and around accommodation and public interiors. To make it comfortable for all on our tours no smoking is allowed at the tours sites either.

Travel Insurance

We recommend you take out travel insurance.