A Visit to the Isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa in Scotland

Sheep on the way to the ferry in Lochaline
Sheep on the way to the ferry in Lochaline

The next step of our Scotland journey was a trip to the Isle of Mull. While there we explored the miniature mystical island of Iona as well as a nature lover’s boat trip to Staffa Island.

The Isle Of Mull

Scenes from the Isle of Mull, including the famous "Highland Coo"
Scenes from the Isle of Mull, including the famous “Highland Coo”

The Isle of Mull is best known for its windswept vistas, the fisherman’s village of Tobermory which is home to the island’s only whisky distillery of the same name, and for the tiny island of Iona of its southwest coast which is home to an abbey that was once the center of early Christianity.

Views of the Isle of Mull.
Views of the Isle of Mull from our B&B.

We drove from Glenfinnan to the ferry dock at Lochaline on single track roads (seen in the sheep photo above). The drive was lovely except when we got stuck behind 3 large motorhomes and were then faced with a giant logging truck coming in the opposite direction!

Single track road with motorhome and logging truck
It was a tight squeeze.

The ferry crossing was short and easy and soon we were on our way south and then west to the small village of Fionnphort where we checked into our B&B and headed over to Iona for the afternoon. More on the ferries at the bottom of this post.

Iona

In the afternoon we walked down to the ferry dock and took the ferry over to Iona. As you can see in the photo below, Iona is only a short hop across the water from Mull. Our goal was to walk around a bit and check out the famous Iona Abbey. The entrance fee to the abbey was included in our last of 3 days on the Scotland Explorer pass (otherwise 7 pounds entrance fee). At the time, the cost for the ferry was 6.60 pounds return per person.

Looking across from the ferry dock at Fionnphort to Iona
Looking across from the ferry dock at Fionnphort to Iona
Iona Abbey from the ferry.
Iona Abbey, as seen from the ferry.
Walking around Iona.
Walking around Iona. This structure is the remains of a convent built around 1200.

The walk over to the abbey took only about 10 minutes. The area was first founded as a monastery in 563 A.D. by St, Columba. It was the monks of Iona who brought Christianity to Scotland as well as illustrating the famous Book of Kells (now in Dublin Ireland) here. The abbey that remains today was built by Benedictine monks in the 1200’s. Many visitors feel this is still a very spiritual place. It certainly was peaceful.

Iona Abbey.
Iona Abbey.
Iona Abbey inside.
Iona Abbey inside.
Iona Abbey inside.
Iona Abbey inside.
At Iona Abbey.
At Iona Abbey.

Next to the abbey is a small museum with relics and ancient carved stones. Nearby is a small chapel and a graveyard where it’s said that many ancient kings of Scotland were buried, including one of the more famous, Macbeth!

Iona Chapel and graveyard of Kings
Iona Chapel and graveyard of Kings
Walking around Iona.
Walking around Iona.

When we arrived on the island, sitting in the middle of the road was this tortie cat (below) who looks very much like one of ours. She seemed to be the unofficial island greeter. However, heed this warning! She’s not as sweet as she looks because she took a swipe at me when I tried to pet her. Do not let her tempt you. Admire from afar.
While waiting for the return ferry, we stopped for a drink at the little bar near the dock (to the left as you exit the ferry). We tried two different kinds of Talisker whisky from Skye. The Talisker Skye turned out to be my favorite of the trip.

The cat who greeted our ferry in Iona and the bar we waited in for the ferry back.
The cat who greeted our ferry in Iona and the bar we waited in for the ferry back.

Where to stay in Fionnphort:

Caol Ithe B&B -We spent one night at the Caol Ithe B&B in Fionnphort and it was one of the nicest traditional Bed and Breakfasts we’ve stayed in. It’s a lovely four room guesthouse about 3 blocks from the ferry dock to Iona. The charming hosts made an excellent cooked to order breakfast with homemade bread and locally smoked fish (best of the trip).
Our room was small but nicely appointed and spotlessly clean. It was filled with thoughtful touches like a coffee maker with pods, complimentary raspberry liquor, and homemade “tablet” which is like fudge but not chocolate.
The view from our room overlooked the garden in full bloom and all the way to Iona, where we could even see the abbey from our room.

Our room at the Caol Ithe B&B.
Our room at the Caol Ithe B&B.
The view from our room at the Caol Ithe B&B.
The view from our room at the Caol Ithe B&B.

Dinner was at the only place to eat nearby, the Keel Row Pub. We found it overcrowded, with a crazy waiting system where you have to put your name on a list way before they open and then sit and wait to get into the restaurant. The food was mediocre at best and it seemed like the kitchen was ill-prepared for the influx of tourists they get every summer. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of other options. There’s a fine dining restaurant nearby called The Ninth Wave but they were closed on the day we were there.

The Keel Row Pub in Fionnphort.
The Keel Row Pub in Fionnphort.

If I were to return to the area, I would like to spend a few days on the even quieter island of Iona. One of the nicest options, and the closest hotel to the Iona Abbey, is the St. Columba hotel. We walked past it on the way to the Abbey and the grounds and the hotel looked lovely.

Staffa Island Boat Tour

Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.

Before leaving Mull the next morning, we did a boat tour out to Staffa Island. It was raining when we boarded the boat but the sun came out when we reached the island. We had high hopes of seeing puffins but, alas, we were too late in the season for them. However, a dolphin was spotted off the side of the boat and the island was filled with other kinds of birds, flora and fauna, as well as the fascinating six-sided basalt rock formations Staffa is known for.

Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.

We booked the tour in advance with Staffa Tours. There are other companies, and they sound much the same, but this one offered a 9:30 am morning tour that would get us back to Fionnphort by noon which in turn, would allow us to make our 3:30 PM ferry to Oban.

Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Scenes from Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Scenes from Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Scenes from Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Scenes from Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Us at Fingal's Cave on Staffa Island, Scotland.
In Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island, Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Staffa Island Boat trip from the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
The beach near the ferry dock at Fionnphort.
The beach near the ferry dock at Fionnphort.

I would have loved to have more time on Mull and we will for sure return. Next time I’d like to check out the Duart Castle near Craignure and the village of Tobermory. I’d take the ferry over to the Inner Hebrides and also try and spend a couple of nights on Iona.

Views of the Isle of Mull.
Views of the Isle of Mull. Can you see the waterfalls in the distance?

Ferry Information:

If you want to drive a car on the Isle of Mull, you will need to take a ferry to get on and off the island. Check out the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry website for information. There you will find timetables (pay attention to the “season”) and fare information and can make reservations.
The smaller ferries at Lochaline and Kilchoan do not accept reservations. The ferry between Oban and Craignure does, and I recommend it in high season. I was glad we had a reservation as there was a long line by the time we boarded on our way to Oban, and not all of the cars got on the ferry. In Lochaline, we arrived about 20 minutes before the ferry departed and had no trouble getting on.
The ferry to Iona does not allow cars with the exception of those with a permit so for most people, it will be walk-on only.

Driving on the Isle of Mull.
Driving on the Isle of Mull on a single track road.

Please note, this post was not sponsored in any way. We always pay for everything out of our own pockets and all opinions are truly our own.

Have you been to this part of Scotland? Thinking of going?
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A Visit to the Scottish Isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa on wired2theworld.com
A Visit to the Scottish Isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa on wired2theworld.com

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Davies says:

    Love the Highland coo. Haven’t been to scotland yet. Isle of Mull looks lovely.

  2. Ruth Murdoch says:

    That looks like a fabulous holiday. I can relate to the motorhome and logging truck as we travel throughout Europe in our 7.5 metre long motorhome and being 2.3metres wide can be a challenge at times. We always pull over to let traffic past us when the opportunity allows.

    I love your Dory photo – had to share that with my husband which gave us a good laugh. Thanks for sharing. X

  3. myfabfiftieslife says:

    This has been on our bucket list for a while. Your photos are incredible and I know we would love it! Think I’m gonna move it up a few notches on the priority list. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Scotland is a “must do” in my opinion. Go, you won’t be disappointed!

  4. Kit says:

    That looks great! Going to Scotland for the first time this summer.

    1. Lucky you! I hope you love it as much as we did.

  5. Federica Provolenti says:

    I alway leave London to explore the rest of the world, but I should change my travel habits and focus more on the beauty of this island. Scotland and these little islands seems calling my name

  6. When we were in Northern Ireland we visited the Giant’s Causeway and saw the same rock formations you saw on Staffa. So cool to find them in other places. Sure looks like my road trip around Scotland will be a long one.

    1. Yes! The myth says the two are connected! I was in Ireland a couple of years ago, but did not get to see the Giant’s Causeway.

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