Iona Abbey as seen from the sea

At just over three square miles, Iona is less than a fifth the size of Manhattan. In terms of religious significance it is far bigger than the world’s richest island -- this was the starting point of Christianity in Scotland.

Sheep grazing by Iona Abbey

Nature was always central to Celtic Christianity, as seen on Iona.

Original crosses at Iona

The 8th-century St Martin's Cross is the best-known relic of Iona's ancient past. There is very little left of this history apart from the island’s crosses. There were 360 stone crosses on the island before the Protestant Reformation, which ensured that almost all were thrown into the sea. The three survivors continue to attract pilgrims, tourists and art historians.

Another survivor

Maclean's Cross is one of the newer additions to the Iona landscape, probably 15th century. It is one of the rare survivors of the Protestant Reformation.

A spiritual destination

Iona's white sand and aquamarine sea are less exciting to sun worshippers than to those looking for spiritual awakening.

Irish Celtic cross

The high crosses of Ireland, such as the 10th-century Muiredach's Cross, are thought to have been inspired by Iona.

St. Columba

St. Columba traveled from Ireland to Iona in 563, and from there took Christianity to Scotland. These were some of the darkest days for Christianity, made worse by continual Viking raids.

The Book of Kells

The 8th-century Book of Kells is one of the greatest works of the Celtic Church in general, and the island of Iona in particular. While the illuminated manuscript is named after an Irish monastery, all the specialists agree it started life in the monastery of Iona.

Norse invaders

The Vikings raided Iona on many occasions but did less harm than the Protestant Reformation.

Skellig Michael

The monastery island of Skellig Michael on the west coast of Ireland makes Iona look highly accessible.