Iona: A Sustainable Island

It was a wild night in the tent of howling winds, owls hooting, and waves crashing. I slept well albeit in a heightened state that is hard to describe.  I didn’t remember my dreams as I usually do but I know I had lots.  The ocean was placid when I awoke- the calm after the storm.  I caught the bus early this morning to the other side of Mull to catch the ferry to Iona.  The drive was beautiful: big rocky cliffs, LOTS of sheep and hairy coos, emerald green grasses, carpets of maidenhair ferns (I’ve never seen anything like it, actually), and lots of herons going about their solitary business.  Probably the funniest thing I saw was a bunch of sheep that had been let out on a school’s football field- presumably to take care of the tall grasses that had encroached.  I thought that was brilliant.  This sheep looks like it escaped before its owner got a chance to finish shearing her. I dig the dreadlock look.  She didn’t look too impressed, however, about me taking the picture.

The hostel at Iona is the most beautiful, homey hostel I think I have ever stayed at- second to being in the huts in the middle of the forest in Cintsa, South Africa; that was pretty cool.  This is the view from the kitchen and this is the kitchen.

At the local bookshop, I found a book with a picture of my brooch on it!  Inside is the history of the couple that created it and the meaning of several of the traditional designs.

To be honest, the thing that has captured my attention the most today (besides the beauty of the island) is how incredibly sustainable and mindful this community is.  My hostel has full recycling and compost.  All the businesses pitch buying local produce, diary products, and meat from individuals on the island.  My hostel sells local lamb!  They are all about the water and electricity conservation.

After a nap, which I am finding I need after any long journey these days, I headed off to the famous St. Columba Hotel for lunch.  The hotel itself is beautiful on the inside with tables and chairs made of driftwood.   The grounds are absolutely stunning and the sun came out just in time for lunch.  On the way down, I couldn’t help noticing the stonework and thought of you, Chris Fowles.  These pictures are for you as I thought you might find inspiration for your garden design.  This hotel has a big organic garden outside their grounds where most of their food is grown.  The chef cooks only local, seasonal food and it is safe to say that the meal I had was the most delicious, fresh thing I ate since leaving Vancouver.  I had what is called the Poacher’s Platter.  Listen to this description and stop your drooling if you can (unless, of course you are vegetarian in which case, you will probably have the opposite reaction):

“A selection of Rannoch Moor cold smoked meats, homemade chicken pate and Arran oatcakes.  Served with a green salad and our own cranberry and red onion relish.”

OK.  The relish was to die for and the pate was extremely yummy.  The vegetables tasted alive and vibrant, as they had just been picked this morning from the garden.  Then I had a pot of tea with milk, which, after a downpour was just what I needed to warm up a bit.  Tip: If you ever come to the UK, make sure you have waterproof covers for BOTH your bags.  I had to choose my little bag over my big bag today.  Clothes are soaked but electronics are A-OK. Now back to the tea…Daniel Flippance, I have thought of you each time I poured tea here in Scotland.  Dan is an English friend of mine who taught me a tip so that I wouldn’t have to use a spoon to stir my milk and tea: put the milk in first and THEN pour the tea.  So that probably sounds pretty simple to you tea-drinkers but to me it was a revelation.

After going on and on about how good everything was with my waiter and mentioning that I was a gardener myself, he sent me to the gardens to meet their gardener, Richard.  While wandering down to meet him, I scoped out the vegetables and fruits and looked at how they’d laid everything out taking mental notes.  Everything is just beginning to grow here and most of their crops won’t be ready until end of July but the lettuce, kale, and currants seemed ready to roll.  When I found Richard, I inquired where I could buy local produce.  It turns out nowhere this time of year because the harvest has not yet begun.  But Nina (another gardener) took me over to the lettuce and kale patch and cut me two big heads, which will last me my whole stay here.  He wouldn’t take my money so I bought him chocolate on Nina’s advisement.  He invited me to a ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance) tonight and so I plan to go after the 9 pm service at the Abbey.  I have not danced a proper dance since Vancouver and I am going through a bit of withdrawal so it will be nice.  Will fill you in more tomorrow.  As for me, I am off to sit in the sunshine and watch the grasses sway.  It is light out until pretty much midnight here and it is only dark for a few hours and then the sun comes up so my body is adjusting by just going with the flow and taking it all in…


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie Maia
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 16:44:38

    I am experiencing Scotland through your stories….and I am loving it!
    You seem very relaxed and spiritual…. enjoy and know that you are very blessed… love you


  2. Debbie Dumaresq
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 17:27:31

    Sounds like bliss and perfection!


    • Jen E
      Jul 06, 2010 @ 06:41:31

      It really and truly is, Deb. I highly recommend it for anyone needing a little magic in their lives. xo J


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