The Martyrs of Iona

From a historic island abbey.

The Martyrs of Iona

The monastery on the windswept Scottish island of Iona was built in the year 563, by Saint Columba, grandson of the first Irish nobleman to convert to Christianity and Apostle to the Picts.

For centuries, Iona Abbey was a crucial outpost for Celtic Christianity: it was here, around the year 800, that seven monks created the Book of Kells, perhaps Earth's finest illuminated manuscript (a few pages are shown below).

Producing such a book would've required substantial capital — at the very least, lots of gold leaf — making the island and its abbey a regular target of Viking raids, most grievously in 806, when 68 monks were massacred at what's today called Martyr's Bay.

Accessible only by ferry, the 1,450-year-old Abbey still stands today. A couple can stay on the island in a nearby B&B for just £100.