Postcard from Iona: “Out off the west of the world”


And God said: Let there be a place made of stone

out off the west of the world,

roughed nine months by gale

rattled in Atlantic swell.

A place that rouses each Easter

with soft blessings of flowers

and shocks of white shell sand;

a place found only sometimes

by those who have lost their way

Ken Steven wrote the poem, a friend of the Rev. Joyce Watson’s, with whom I’m staying on the island. They are partners in producing cards, with his words and her photos. Here is my lovely host outside BEANNACHD, which means “Blessing”.


Joyce tells me that people sometimes pronounce it Be Knackered, which would be about right at this stage in my journey, especially after the West Highland Way and Ben Nevis!

Yes, my body is stiff and tired, and of course I have all kinds of emotions now this epic journey is coming to an end. There is so much to process and reflect on, but I just don’t have the capacity today. There is a very real sense of being right at the edge of the world here.

I have really enjoyed being with the Iona Community for worship in the Abbey. Sharon, their Warden, made me very welcome and invited me, and Joyce, to share the evening meal at the Macleod Centre.  Here we are after the communion service yesterday evening.


I also had the great pleasure to meet Jeremy, of the Levellers. We got into conversation on the ferry and I discovered that he comes here every year for a time of quiet and reflection.  We chatted about the state of things, housing and homelessness, community, the travelling life, and all sorts of other stuff. We also share an appreciation of the single malt whiskeys, especially the smokey, peaty ones!


I am missing Francoise and the younger Murrays, and look forward to being home. But the view from Joyce’s window is pretty good..

IMG_6785 was the Abbey and St Martin’s Cross with the moon rising, the night before last. Slightly blurred.. mysterious and atmospheric though..


I’ve got to start preparing for the journey back to London today: the ferry from Iona, the bus across Mull, then the ferry from Mull to Oban.  Some call that a pilgrimage in itself.. Then the train from Oban to Glasgow and a bunk on the Caledonian sleeper train, getting into Euston about 6.30am.

It will be strange to be back in London after 2 months away, but I’m glad to have a good week left of my sabbatical to write some more, get re-connected with Francoise and the family, and friends in London.


11 thoughts on “Postcard from Iona: “Out off the west of the world”

  1. pray that on the journey home you will rest and refresh with soothing sleep for the aching muscles and sweet dreams to process all this marvelous yet exhausting journey. the coming home leg will always be quicker!!god bless and thank you for the wonderful photos that came from your pilgrimage . I have enjoyed seeing them, Sara.x

  2. Fantastic. What an experience and achievement. Now you can get back to having people (like me) complaining about people carrying backpacks on the tube. Just this morning …………… Welcome home. Tricia

      • Here’s an excerpt from Adonnan’s life of st Columba concerning the saints prophetic revelation about a storm-blown crane from Ireland: ‘… The brother obeyed; and on the third day, after the ninth hour, as he had been bidden, he awaited the coming of the foreknown guest. When it arrived, he lifted it from the shore where it had fallen; in its weakness, he carried it to the lodging; in its hunger, he fed it. When he returned to the monastery in the evening, the saint, not questioning but affirming, said to him: ‘god bless you, my son, because you have tended well the pilgrim guest; which will not remain in pilgrimage, but after three days will return home’.
        This, precisely as the saint foretold, the event also proved to be true. After being a guest for three days, it first rose from the ground in the presence of its host that had cared for it, and flew to a hight; and then, after studying the way for a while in the air, crossed the expanse of ocean, and in calm weather took its way back to Ireland, in a straight line of flight’.
        Adonnan’s life of st Columba (c700AD)

  3. Aagh! Useless auto-correct on phone. It’s Adomnan!
    Glad u home safe. I’m sure it will be a bit of culture shock for a while! I look forward to reading any further reflections u may have when you’ve had a chance to relax a bit!
    Til then

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