Iona Abbey

Iona 3 - 9 April 2024

In the Steps of St Columba

A group visit to IONA April 2024 (Wednesday 3rd April – Tuesday 9th April) led by Reverend Canon Roy Woodhams, Rector of St Nicolas Church Cranleigh, Area Dean of Cranleigh.

What is this trip like? Following the success of three previous trips to Iona, due to a cancellation, I have unexpectedly been offered dates for another group trip in April 2024. Joining one of my group visits to Iona is an experience not to be missed – beautiful scenery, group companionship, experiencing one of Britain’s most holy places, and enjoying good food at the Argyll Hotel!  I am always at pains to point out that these visits are ‘an experience’ but they are not ‘a retreat’!

Dates and Costs: The proposed dates are 3rd – 9th April 2024. Unfortunately, costs have gone up steeply since Covid, so the expected cost this time would be £1100 per head for a single room and £2100 for a couple in a double room (or for any 2 singles who are prepared to share a twin room).  I have had to base travel costs on 2023 prices as next year’s prices are not yet available.  Because of this my budget includes a contingency figure which will be returned if not used! 

Non Travel option: One or two have asked me about an option which doesn’t include travel as they are thinking of taking their own car and making it part of a longer holiday.  Oban is a good launch-pad to visit the West Coast, and there are lots of options for visiting other Islands (Isla/Jura, Coll/Tiree, the Outer Hebrides etc) or just taking a road trip around the stunning North-west coast.  If you would like to choose this option it would potentially reduce the holiday costs by around £200 per person, and if you didn’t want to join the group in Glasgow or Oban, by around a further £200.


  • Outward – overnight in Glasgow (most likely at the Leonardo Hotel which is very conveniently placed for Glasgow Central Station)
  • Iona – 4 nights atThe Argyll Hotel (At The Argyll Hotel, most of the double/twin rooms are sea view, but these will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.  If you end up in a Garden facing room there will be a small reduction in cost!  All single rooms are garden facing.)
  • Return – overnight at the Premier Inn, Oban

 What’s included:

  • Return rail travel from Guildford to Glasgow Central (except crossing from Waterloo to Euston for which you will have a choice of travelling by underground or getting a taxi, and for which you will need to pay yourselves)
  • Return Rail Travel or mini coach travel (TBC) from Glasgow to Oban and return
  • 1 night bed and breakfast outward in Glasgow
  • 4 nights bed, breakfast and two course evening Meal at The Argyll Hotel, Iona
  • 1 night bed and breakfast in Oban on the return journey
  • Return ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure
  • Return Coach travel from Craignure to Fionnphort
  • Return Ferry Crossing from Fionnphort to Iona Quay

What’s NOT included:

  • Travel to Guildford Station (though I would try to arrange lifts).  It will be an early start around 6.30am.
  • Lunchtime food on any day (there are lots of alternatives depending on how hungry you are)
  • Evening Meals in Oban and Glasgow – there is a plethora of restaurants in both places, but last time we booked for the group in both places.
  • Entry to Iona Abbey (other than at Worship time when it is free) If you are a member of English Heritage, you can also enter free at any time.
  • Optional boat trip to Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa.  This year this was costing £30, and is dependent on weather conditions – it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted if rough! 
  • Bar bills.  We usually have a competition to see who can run up the biggest, which I confess that I usually win!

Some background information and health warnings:

  • This trip is a wonderful opportunity to explore the Holy Island of Iona with a group of like-minded friends
  • I will be offering some historical and spiritual input during the trip and especially on Iona, though individuals will be free to use this (or not) in any way they wish
  • I will be leading some guided walks on the Island, which will be optional.  In order to really enjoy this trip a degree of mobility is required – the walk from the hotel to The Abbey is a ¼ of a mile gently uphill, and the general terrain of the Island is undulating.  For those who don’t feel able to do longer walks there is plenty to keep you occupied in and around the Abbey and Village.
  • We will need to be prepared for all weather! Although April is normally good on the West Coast of Scotland, it is said that on Iona it’s possible to experience Four Seasons in a Day! We will certainly need waterproofs and sturdy walking shoes
  • On the first afternoon in Glasgow I hope there will be an opportunity to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery to see the original of Salvador Dahli’s famous painting ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’, as well as their fine collection of French Impressionist paintings, and other artefacts.  This is a 40 minute walk from the City Centre, a 15 minute bus ride or a 10 minute taxi ride.

How to book: I believe this trip will be well subscribed, particularly for the single rooms, so bookings will be treated strictly on a first come, first served basis!  If you would like to go, please email me ASAP with your room and travel options.  In order for the trip to happen, I must have a group with a minimum of 10 participants, so that is another reason to be prompt in booking!

Payment Schedule:

  • Now: £250 per person to secure your place.
  • 1st December 2023: a further £300 per person
  • 1st February 2024: Remaining balance
Cheques should be made payable to ‘R O Woodhams’, or I can provide my bank details for a BACS Transfer.

Please contact Canon Roy with any questions.