Iona Sense of Place

Poetry Writing Course


Poetry writing course

Suitable for all levels from beginners - more experienced.

Summary: Date: Tuesday 31st August-Sat 4th Sept, 2010 (Arriving Tues

afternoon/eve leaving on Sat morn) i.e. 4 nights (3 days)

Where: Isle of Iona, the Hebrides, Scotland

Venue: workshops indoors (Argyll Hotel) and various places of

interest round the island

Accomodation: The Columba Hotel has been reserved for 10 students.

You are welcome to make your own booking for

accomodation and join us just for workshops and/or dinner.

For other Hotels, private B and Bs on Iona or the Iona hostel.

(See the island's websites in side bar.)

Cost: £200 for course tuition, including a one to one.

Plus entry fees to museums , boat trip etc.

Plus accomodation, food and travel. Various options:

Option 1: Columba Hotel is £240 for 4 nights B & B, (single room & cont breakfast) plus dinner, average price £20- £25.

Total including tutor fee: £520 est. plus travel,.

Option 2: Stay at Columba but dine elsewhere to save costs. (See sidebar for island cafes and restaurants).

Option 3: You may book your own accomodation and dine with us at Columba or eat elsewhere

Option 4: You may stay at the youth hostel, self-cater and only join us for workshops and evening events.

. In all cases, your travel is extra.


There is a special atmosphere on Iona, mystical, remote and an intense silence (once the last ferry of tourists has left for the day) and with no cars allowed on the island, apart from a few local ones. The light is clear, the landscape sparse, with stunning long white beaches and breath-taking views of Ben Mor on the east and the open sea to the west .There you can empathise with the early monks who felt they were on the edge of the known world.

For those who haven't been before, do look at the various websites in the side bar.There's plenty to inspire you: the Abbey, cloisters and stone crosses; the ruins of the Nun's Priory; the local history musuem (the Heritage Centre) in the former Manse on crofting and fishing life; many artists have been inspired by the island and you may recognize the view of Mull from North Beach painted by Peploe, one of the Scottish Colourists.

Fingal's Cave, on Staffa, inspired Keats, Mendelsohn (his Hebridean Overture), Turner and Queen Victoria. Whales, porpoises or dolphins and basking sharks may be seen on the boat trip en route. Some of these you may see from the island, in particular seals in the harbour, and of course, sea birds everywhere. Kittiwakes, artic skuas, terns, etc

Many famous Viking and Scottish kings are buried on Iona, including the notorious Macbeth. John Smith, former Head of the Labour Party is also buried here.

There are longer walks for those who want them to long white beaches with evocative names like 'The Bay at the Back of the Ocean.' or you could go in search of the green pebbles known as Columba's tears.



will consist of tutor-led writing workshops either indoors (at the Argyll Hotel) or at the sites - Abbey, Heritage Centre, Abbey Museum with time for free writing and/or one to one tutorials. One morning or afternoon would be a trip to Staffa (weather dependent). Readings in the evenings.

Afternoons are free for walking, writing or one to ones. The majority of the island is mainly flat - one major hill in the north and a hilly terrain in the south which can both be avoided. You should be reasonably fit. Walking for some of the sessions will be necessary so lack of mobility would mean you would miss out on some of the sessions.


The tutors are writers and experienced tutors, Stephanie Green and Mary Gladstone, who have run many creative writing courses together over the years for the Office of Lifelong Learning, University of Edinburgh.


The Columba Hotel has terrific sea-views and a lovely garden where they sell teas.

There is a sun-lounge overlooking the Sound with great views - of the fishing boats, and sometimes of dolphins and porpoises - a good spot for coffee, tea, reading or writing poems!

For other choices see side-bar for Argyll Hotel, B and Bs, or youth hostel.

LUNCH: Bring a packed lunch. (Your hotel or B and B may provide.) for the first day. After that, it's up to you or choose your own venue amongst cafes, restaurants.

DINNER: If you wish to dine with the group, book your dinner at the Columba in advance and mention you are on the course so that we all sit together. Dinner is a la carte so exact cost is up to you. There are other restaurants and cafes on the island at varying range of prices.

TRIPS AND ENTRANCE FEES: The boat trip to Staffa is £20 per head and entry to Abbey is £4.50/£3.70 Senior, small entry fees to Iona Heritage Centre. All these costs are to be paid on the day. (Note these are 2009 prices. There may be a small increase in 2010.)


Please note: The Sense of Place course fee to tutor/s plus deposit for Columba Hotel should be paid to Stephanie Green. The balance of your hotel bill should be paid directly to them. If you chose to stay elsewhere then you must make your own accomodation booking. The Sense of Place tutors are not responsible for ensuring you accomodation.


1) Please email Stephanie on to check if

there is a place left (max 16 students only) and for further details,

including address to send course payment. Indicate if you wish to stay at the

Columba, single room or shared (there are shared rooms available at lower costs

of £40pnph) or if you want to make your own accomodation booking.

2) If making own accomodation booking, check availability, make

reservation and pay deposit at your choice of accomodation. We

suggest you do not delay as Iona has limited accomodation and gets

booked up months ahead.

3) Send cheque for Sense of Place course fee: £200 payable to

Stephanie Green. £100 deposit to secure place. Plus £89.60p

for Columba deposit (also payable to Stephanie Green) if


N.B. Do not make your booking directly with the Columba, but through


The balance of tutor fee is payable 3 months' before course starts.

Check with your hotel/other accomodation, when their balance is due

and pay directly to them.

4) Book your space on the train and ferries well ahead. (See below)


See Terms and Conditions below.


Your travel is extra payment, to be booked by yourself.

Travel is complicated involving train/car, a ferry, a coach and another ferry.

Allow all day to get here (not including air travel).

Travel: Nearest airport is Glasgow.

Train or road: Glasgow to Oban (train takes 4 hours)

then 2 ferries: Ferry Oban-Craignure,on Isle of Mull,

limited sailings a day (40 mins crossing; allow at least 30 mins to


a coach across Mull (1 hour) (separate cost to ferry. Scottish Senior

citizens gets free coach trip on production of card) and another

Ferry , passenger-only Fionphort-Iona. (c. 10 mins)

We recommend not bringing a car on the Craignure ferry. Foot passengers are a vastly cheaper fare. But be aware there is no longer any parking at Oban harbourside. The free parking is at the back of the town and at least a half hour walk back to the ferry carrying your luggage.

Therefore we recommend, if possible, the train! However, make sure you get on at the right section as the train divides at Crianlarich and half of it goes up north.

Ferries are run by Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac). See their prices and timetable on their website. can buy both Oban-Craigmure, and Fionphort-Iona tickets from the Oban office. There are limited sailings. Ensure you book well in advance. (The sooner the better tho foot passengers have a greater chance than car passengers.) And arrive in good time before sailing, especially if you have a car to load on. The queue for loading can be an hour ahead of sailing.

Ensure you time your journey to arrive for the last c.6pm ferry at Fionphort-Iona or you will be stranded on Mull overnight, with no guarantee of accomodation.

The last ferry to Iona usually waits for the coach, but not for anyone else.


Bank: There is no bank and no ATM on Iona. Nearest is Oban. But the general store

on Iona will give cashback.

Doctor: There is no doctor on Iona. The nearest is at Bunessan on Mull , weather

dependant. Nearest hospital is Inverness and involves helicopter etc. If you have a

serious medical condition this is not the course for you.

Church services: Sunday is not one of our course days, so if you wanted to go to

the Iona Community services or any other religious denomination, it's up to you

to arrive before the course starts or stay later.


(including our Cancelation and Refunds)

Please read. Click on Terms and Conditions.


1. Iona

2. Past Courses


Stephanie Green and Mary Gladstone


Sept 2009: Stephanie Green and Mandy Haggith

Extract from 'Winter' by( ascribed to) Colum Cille

(translated from Early Irish by Ciaran Carson)

Bracken, bright red,

an unmade bed;

usual as ice,

the wild goose's voice.

Cold holds

the wings of birds -

has seized my words,

so ends my tale.

(Quoted in: CC's Introduction to 'Amra Choluim Chille - Dallan's Elegy for Columba' edited and translated by P.L. Henry. )