Iona. The Other Island by Kenneth Steven
Excellent presentation of the island with five-star photography, brand new poems, tales recounting legends and local stories
Iona. The Other Island
Kenneth Steven with photographs by Iain Sarjeant,
Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh
Reviewer: Alec Gilmore
Author and photographer absorbing Iona from childhood, taken by their parents ‘summer after summer’. The result is an excellent presentation of the island for a variety of readers, with factual information and five star photography to boot.
For pilgrims Iona is the Abbey and a place of retreat. For some tourists it is little more than a short ferry trip followed by a short walk to the Abbey and the gift shop. For others it is a chance to enjoy the lovely white sand and the clear water which was what grabbed me on my first visit in 1956.
For those who like views there is the climb to the highest point on the Island (Dun Ì, pronounced Dunee), from which you get a superb view not only of Iona but also of the surrounding islands of ‘that fragmented Hebridean world‘.
For the more adventurous, but ‘not for the fainthearted on miserable days’, there is ‘a rocky track . . . a slow slog . . . and one or two wide pools to navigate’, followed by a sharp descent to Columba’s Bay, to set foot where legend has it that Columba arrived in 563 and search for green stones, polished pebbles and fragments of serpentine, always remembering that ‘it’s not just about the finding it’s about the journey’.
For Steven each place has its special message. The Gully of Pat’s Cow’ is ‘ somewhere to escape from the weight of the world’ and a simple ring of stones (The Hermit’s Cell) evokes feelings of a biblical landscape where the prophets hid away in their caves and listened — ‘a place where heaven and earth come close’.
The geographical description and ‘map’, though sparse, are helpful as also would have been some information on stones, flora and fauna. Infra dig, perhaps, to the writer and photographer but a useful ‘sop’ for the uninitiated.
Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister