May 6, 2023

Tobermory and Iona

Tobermory was built as a fishing port in the late 18th century and is now the main town on Mull. It is a picture-postcard of a place with the brightly painted buildings along the main street to the pier and the high woodland-fringed hills surrounding the bay. Of significance to the Lords of the Isles project is the Battle of Bloody Bay, a naval battle fought off the coast of Mull between John MacDonald of Islay, the Lord of the Isles and chief of Clan Donald ad his son, Angus Og Macdonald.  Angus emerged victorious and seized power from his father holding on to it for a decade.  But many clansmen had died in the battle and half of the clan’s fleet had been sunk. Thus the power of the Lords of the Isles was greatly diminished.

A lovely road trip from Tobermory to Iona was the day’s adventure. I am in love with Mull! First stop was Loch Buie and the standing stones there before moving on to Moy Castle, another significant piece of Lords of the Isles history.  It was built by the Maclaines, another vassal of the Lords of the Isles.

The most significant site today was Iona.  Founded by St. Columba and later destroyed by the Vikings it was rebuilt by Ranald, son of Somerled, as a Benedictine monastery and flourished under the patronage of the Lords of the Isles until eventually falling victim to the Protestant Reformation of 1560.  Ranald’s sister, Bethoc, is considered to have been the prioress of the Augustinian nunnery constructed near the abbey. There will be much more in the book about the connection to Somerled and the Lords of the Isles.