Perth pilgrims visit Mull, Staffa and Iona

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Staff and pupils from St John’s Academy, Perth took part in the school’s annual pilgrimage to Iona. On the 5th anniversary of the opening of their new school, and the 50th anniversary of their forebearers at St Columba’s High School, Perth (1967-2010), the traditional celebrations took place to mark the Feast of St Columba, patron of the Diocese of Dunkeld.

As Mgr Hendry prepared to celebrate the Patronal Mass for the rest of the school, Mgr Drysdale accompanied the young pilgrims on their journey. Mr McGuire and Mrs Caroll led the group in a short service of dedication in the school’s oratory before they set off.



The group stayed at a Achaban House, just 5 minutes from the Iona Ferry terminal at Fionnphort. Newly opened by the owners earlier that week, the accommodation proved perfect as a place to eat, sleep, play and pray.

A first glimpse of Iona was captured that evening beneath glorious skies, but the gathering clouds were a sign of the forecast storm that was to delay our boat trip to Staffa on the next day.

The morning began with Mass celebrated by Mgr Martin Drysdale then, a bus trip to Tobermory offered not only a chance catch up on lost sleep but also a shelter while the storm finally blew itself out. The charm of Tobermory’s colourful ‘Balamory’ buildings warmed up the pilgrims – so too did the cup of hot chocolate!

The group returned to Fionnphort for the boat trip to Staffa which proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend. After a pleasant crossing the group clambered across the basalt columns to reach Fingal’s Cave before heading to the cliff top to enjoy watching the Puffins.

Staffa looks like it may be from a different planet. Its hexagonal columns were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions and a vast blanket of lava that spread into the Atlantic Ocean. Years of waves crashing against these columns created the magnificent Fingal’s Cave. Hardly known until 1772, when the botanist Joseph Banks highlighted the wild, natural beauty of the island.It soon became a must-see location. Famous visitors have included Queen Victoria, Lord Tennyson, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Keats; all fell under the island’s spell.

Off to the Creich Hall next – for a session of Craft Work – weaving using traditional willow branches – thanks to Mull Willow.

Finally – a landing on Iona and time to explore the island. First stop was St Coumba’s Bay where Columba is thought to have first landed. Then to the Abbey and the Michael Chapel where there was a short prayer service before that long journey home.

More photos here…