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The Columba Centre was opened by Historic Environment Scotland in Fionnphort on Mull in 1997 as part of the commemorations for the 1400th anniversary of Columba's death. There are several good craft/gift shops and a book shop on Iona - click here for a list.The Iona Gallery and Pottery run by Gordon Menzies is super.Within a few hundred metres I reached the entrance to the ruins of the nunnery dating from the early thirteenth century.

Out to sea, Staffa pointed the shadowy mouths of Fingal's Cave and the Boat Cave directly at me.

To the north-west, the lumps and bumps of the Treshnish Isles were clearly visible, with the outlines of Coll, Tiree, Rum and Eigg in the background.

It runs back and forth throughout the day and takes 5 minutes. This 6-hour trip allows ample time ashore on Iona, plus a non-landing trip to Staffa (Fingal's cave). There are regular buses from Craignure on the east coast of Mull connecting with the ferries arriving from Oban on the mainland. Travellers' Tips If you are unable to walk the quarter of a mile to the abbey, you can hire the Iona Taxi.

Throughout the tourist season there are daily coach day-trips to Mull, Iona, Staffa and the Treshnish Isles from Oban, click here for details. Scheduled boat trips (up to 3 hours) also operate on certain days. Contact Lindsay and Joyce Mc Intyre - telephone 07 - advance booking is essential. Or try Blazing Saddles Cycle Hire at Seaview Guest House in near the ferry at Fionnphort (Mull). The Oban Times has a free tourist map of Mull & Iona which you can download online (PDF).

If you want to feel its magic, the best time to be on Iona is either early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the hundreds of day-trippers who pour off the ferry every day.

If the area around the Abbey gets too busy for you, then find one of Iona's sandy beaches and relax.By the roadside, Mac Lean's Cross, some three metres high, stood over them watching and waiting for more of the faithful to arrive.A marker predicting the end of the journey for centuries of believers.It seemed a shame that few took the time to stop and look around them, as if it was barely worthy of their attention.The ground was a carpet of short grass, with flowerbeds adding splashes of purple and red.The ruins were a mishmash of colours ranging from pink to grey, enclosed by a matching oblong wall.

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