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Isle Iona

In the Celtic world that gateway is present everywhere. In every place is the immediacy of heaven. In every moment we can glimpse the Light that was in the beginning and from which all things have come.

~John Philip Newell

In September 2019, I had the chance to visit Isle Iona off the coast of Scotland. Using film cameras rather than digital, I captured something of the aura that pilgrims have recognized in this Thin Place over the centuries. 


Isle Iona is a small island, only a mile and a half wide by three miles long, and is not easily reached, perhaps contributing to the location’s special aura. To reach it, we flew to Glasgow, then took a three-hour train ride to Oban, an hour ferry ride to Mull, a bus ride across Mull that takes about an hour and a half and then another ferry to Iona.

Just a short walk from the ferry landing, we saw the ancient abbey that was completely restored in the last century, the ruins of a medieval nunnery and a Celtic high cross that marks the center of the island. Each site resonated with history and spirit that connects to those who have lived and visited this sacred site over the centuries.

The longer we stayed on the island, though, the more the landscape, the weather and the light began to exert a hold on me that would have evoked the spiritual realm even if none of the ancient structures still survived.

The images that follow are an attempt to capture something of the aura that pilgrims have recognized in Isle Iona over the centuries. Accompanying the images are quotations that feel somehow in keeping with this treasured thin place.

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