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A trip I made to the Scottish isles of Mull and Iona in the Inner Hebrides was a huge inspiration and was the start of a series of paintings in which I tried to express the beauty of these Scottish Islands with their wonderful unique character. I also made a little boat trip to the island of Staffa from Iona - I can’t begin to describe how amazing that was - this little island half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide features hexagonal rock columns formed from volcanic eruptions. The special acoustic effects of the sea flowing into Fingal’s amazing cave were otherworldly and inspired the composer Mendelsohn to write his Hebrides Overture.
The fine art greeting card of Mull was based on the painting I did as the setting sun cast a shimmer of light over the water after a beautiful day. This was just one of the amazing views on the wonderful Isle of Mull in the highlands of Scotland known for majestic Ben More, the highest mountain of the Crianlarich Hills.
The Isle of Mull is an ancient land - it has been inhabited for thousands of years - Mesolithic hunter gatherers lived in caves and stone axes and burial cairns have been found, left behind by neolithic farmers. Bronze age ‘beaker’ people built stone circles, burial cairns and left their distinctive beaker pottery. I saw a beautiful example of Beaker pottery at the National Museum in Edinburgh - very skilled and sophisticated.
Just a short boat journey from Mull is the tiny Isle of Iona just 3 miles long by 1 mile wide. This tiny island is very beautiful, dense with wildflowers such as heather and orchids as well as white sandy beaches.
Iona is home to the very noisy bird the corncrake which I didn’t see but definitely heard and the surrounding seas are home to dolphins, otters and seals. During my visit the weather was beautiful and made the lichens and jewel coloured sea pinks look even more vivid in the clear light.
In the year 563 St Columba is said to have arrived in Iona from Ireland with 12 companions where he built a Celtic church and established a monastic community. The story goes that he was the grandson of the Irish King Niall and his journey to Scotland was a form of self-imposed penance for having caused mayhem and bloodshed over copied manuscripts.
Once established St Columba set about converting a pagan Scotland and Northern England to the Christian faith. The little Island of Iona became known as a place of sacred pilgrimage and learning. Kings of Scotland, Ireland and Norway were buried there. Over the next few centuries the monks produced Celtic crosses, carvings and manuscripts the most famous of which is the incredible Book of Kells on display in Trinity College Dublin and which I recommend anyone to go and see. Now Iona has an established religious centre. Standing on the site of the original monastery is the Benedictine Abbey - a religious centre and community of Benedictine monks and a place of spiritual retreat. It is sometimes called a ‘thin place’ because you feel as if you can touch heaven. The beautiful views and the mystic history create the perfect atmosphere for reflection peace and tranquility which is captured in the painting and print of St Columba's Bay.