Living on Iona leads to making the most of what we have, and doing without things that we often believe we need. Though the world of online shopping has made so many things much more accessible, some things –such as the landscape- remain unchanged. So over the years I have spent on Iona, my training grounds for hikes around the world including Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, Patagonia’s W trek and the famous Inca trail of Peru, has been none other than Iona’s Dun I. Elevation, 101m and pronounced Dun – ee. This year, Dun I serves as my training ground for none other than the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. To even come close to the elevation I will reach on this trek, I would need to go up Dun I 50 times. We have to get creative here on Iona, and just because Dun I stands at a minimalist 101 metres, it doesn’t make it any less of a mind altering experience.
I choose to leave at 6am on a cloudy yet hopeful morning. As I walk through the nunnery ruins, past the St Columba hotel and the abbey, I do not encounter a single soul. This is what I was hoping for – despite Iona’s popularity there are amazing moments of solitude and clarity to be found. Walking towards the north end of the island, I breathe in the crisp morning air and gaze over at the beauty of The Burg and Ben More, wondering if I will make it to the cairn of Dun I for sunrise, or remain mesmerised down here at virtually sea level. But I have made a deal with myself – I must power on. As I reach the gate to Dun I, I look up, always in awe at how big this little hill looks when I haven’t stood next to anything of great height in months. Though Dun I doesn’t stand at a huge elevation, the ascent is steep and is often quite slippery. I make it to the top quite quickly, pausing along the way to soak in the island coming to life as the sun begins to rise. I stare out into the ethereal beauty that is the Isle of Iona and its surrounds. The cloud cover is thick to the south, and I chuckle to myself looking over towards St. Columba’s Bay and think, ‘no wonder Columba turned his back on Ireland, it’s rather dark and stormy down there.’ Towards Staffa and Lunga the day is bright, clear and full of hope. From this little hill, on this little island, the views are clear and endless. Much like life, it is all about perspective up here. A favourite reason to come to Dun I for me other than epic hike training, is to remind myself how small Iona really is. After a while on the island, walking to the north end from the village can feel like a lot of effort. Being up here refreshes my memory and reminds me how close it really is.
The sun is trying to pierce through a truly fantastic display of grey, pink and orange. I decide to walk over to the Well of Eternal Youth. Before I engage in the ritual of washing my face in the mythical elixir, I am entranced by the beautiful pink clouds reflected in the water. There it is – perfection in reflection. One doesn’t need to hike Mount Everest in order to reflect and gain perspective. This can be found right here on Iona, on little Dun I. I look down at how far I have come, and then look up only to see that the sky is the limit, and that everything I need I already have.