All of them are accessible by foot, and all them enjoy the endless changes of colour in the landscape and the sea. On warm summer days the sunshine, sand, and crystal clear waters make Iona appear positively Mediterranean. It’s a time of picnics, rock-pooling, family fun and even swimming for the adventurous. Similarly, on the same beaches, bracing autumnal walks can be full of all the sounds and sights of crashing waves and dramatic weather. The variety and number of beaches, means there’s always somewhere new to explore, and on windy days there is always somewhere that is sheltered.
For artists, photographers, and wildlife spotters there is always the treats of the island’s marine ecology - with otters seen darting through the kelp beds, and all many of nesting and migratory sea-birds filling the air. The foreshore indeed teems with life during the seasons, and its important to help us look after our environment. Therefore please tread lightly - and leave only footprints behind you. Please also keep dogs under control - especially with nesting birds. Above all please be safe: there are strong currents surrounding the island and numerous tidally affected outcrops, beaches, and promontories.
If you head north up the Machair, and through a gate you will find a couple of hidden little coves, and then beyond them a delightful and often sheltered small bay. With steep sided rocks and cliffs either side it can be a veritable sun trap on warm summer days. The gently shelving soft sand beach can provide the warmest swim on the island when the tide comes in over the ‘hot’ sand.
Take the island’s road north past the Abbey and along to it’s end. Then through the gates and on to a beautiful series of sandy beaches, with dunes, rich coloured rocks and a panaramic view of Mull, Staffa, the Treshnish Isles, the low profiles of Coll and Tiree, and finally Skye and the Inner Hebrides in the back ground. It is a vista that captivated the Scottish Colourists in their day, as it does with many a painter and photographer today.
St Columba’s Bay
It’s a fair walk over to this bay and you need to give yourself the good part of a day to properly enjoy the walk south across the Machair, past the loch, and down to St Columba’s reported arrival point on Iona. It’s a stone beach famed for it’s green stones that can be found glistening along the shore. Many a picnic has been had here, and many a memento has been found.
Bay at the back of the Ocean
This whole stretch of Machair has open wide exposure to the Western Atlantic and can be very blowy and dramatic on stormy days. Spouting cave can provide wonderful entertainment in the right conditions, and there are great rock-pools towards the south of the bay at low tide.