Dun I and the Well of Age

Iona’s highest point is Dùn I, standing some 101 metres (333 ft) above sea level. The wonderful panoramic views from the top are just reward for the climb. On a relatively clear day you can make out many other Hebridean islands including the Treshnish Isles, Tiree, Coll, and on a really clear day, Rhum, Eigg and Skye with Ireland visible to the South. There is a signpost to indicate the start of the route to the summit on the road to the north end of the island. Terrain is boggy and uneven underfoot, so sturdy footwear is recommended.

John Philip Newell writes:

Dun I is the highest point on the island. ‘Dun’ is Gaelic for hill, and ‘I’ is what Iona was once called. ‘The Hill of Iona’ is a place from which it is possible to see the whole of the island: to the west The Bay at the Back of the Ocean, to the east Martyr’s Bay, to the south Columba’s Bay, and to the north The White Strand of the Monks.

Iona is known as an island of peace but it is also an island that has known pain and suffering. In the 9th century the monastic community experienced martyrdom at the hands of Norse invaders at the north end, red blood shed on pure white sand. Pilgrimage to Iona can be a hill-top experience of vision and fresh perspective. But on Dun I we remember also places of injustice and suffering. Iona’s vision for peace can be the lens of hope through which we look into the face of places of wrong and conflict in our world.

Close to the top of Dun I is an atmospheric rock pool named Tobar na h-Aoise, which translates as the Well of Age. Over time it became known to islanders and visitors as a ‘Wishing Well’ and was associated with the power to restore youth. Pilgrims often wash their faces in this pool, or sip from its waters, as a way of seeking new beginnings in their lives and world.