Take Shelter

With all the wet and windy weather it’s about time you had a tour of our lovely new building on Iona which opened earlier this year, so…

Welcome to Shelter!

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Let’s take a look around…


This new building sits on the footprint of an older shed which has played a key part in island life over the last 100 years – a venue for dances, a cargo store, boatshed, and even the firestation – until it fell into disrepair.


It’s now revitalised, with a similar look to the original building outside (in keeping with the village’s status as a building conservation area). If you are here on a quick daytrip we hope it will inspire you to visit again and spend more time exploring.  If you need a dry place to wait for the ferry, be our guest, and maybe learn something interesting while you’re waiting – there’s a handy vending machine for snacks too!  If you are unable to walk far, our audio-visual film, large-scale map and colourful banners will bring the sights and sounds of the island to you.  If you’re ready to explore off the beaten track you’ll find the map and leaflets useful – don’t forget to come back and record your wildlife sightings afterwards and find out how the conservation work of the National Trust for Scotland provides ‘shelter’ for the island’s wildlife and landscapes too.


Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our generous donors, many thanks to all who contributed and to those who help to keep the building clean and open for business.


10th June saw our official opening ceremony at which young people from Oban High School who’d been involved in our Changing Landscapes project entertained us with their music and poetry.  A short documentary film about this project features in the Shelter’s audio-visual display and can be viewed online here: www.nts.org.uk/Site/Iona-changing-landscapes/Changing-Landscapes

The wildlife film created by Simon Goodall can also be viewed online here:                     www.nts.org.uk/Nature-Channel/View/Iona-Time-And-Tide

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Pic: Tom Finnie (10.6.2016) Official opening of new National Trust for Scotland visitor shelter on Iona:



Winter update

Fans of Changing Landscapes will be glad to know the results of last September’s project are now online!  We gathered together another great team of tutors and Oban High School pupils for a couple of days on Iona, and their creative efforts in music and poetry can now be viewed here.

Feels like it’s been a busier winter than usual, in spite of the storminess!  I enjoyed catching up with ranger colleagues at the NTS countryside conference, including a site visit to the Knapdale beaver trial – we all know species reintroductions can be controversial so it was fascinating to learn all about how that one’s been going.

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Bunessan primary afterschool nature club has been running all winter, and Iona’s will restart in the spring.  We’ve been making art to celebrate our local environment with It is Our World, learning about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code through games, video clips and an obstacle course challenge, taking part in the Big Schools Birdwatch and doing some citizen science through the What’s Under Your Feet? project.


Meanwhile I’ve started visiting the Bunessan Pre5 class every month, so far exploring hibernation and winter using all our senses, and also enjoyed some evening stargazing with Iona primary school families including spotting familiar constellations and waving to Tim Peake as the ISS flew past!

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Have been spending plenty of time planning our summer events programme so look out for some old favourites and a few new ideas in the mix!  This year I hope to take some school and holiday club groups to our new community forest at Tiroran as well.

On Iona, the National Trust for Scotland’s new Shelter is nearly ready to open…hope to tell you more about this soon!

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Emily Wilkins – ranger for South Mull, Iona, Staffa and Burg

Autumn on the Ross

You might be wondering what we’ve been up to over the last couple of months!  Here’s a wee update on a ranger’s life in autumn…

Bunessan Biodiversity days exploring the wildlife in the grounds of the Ross of Mull Historical centre where I have my office:

Bunessan biodiversity days3 JD photo Bunessan biodiversity days4 JD photo Bunessan biodiversity days MG photo Bunessan biodiversity days2 MG photo

Hosting a Thistle Camp working holiday tackling all sorts of maintenance tasks including the never-ending beachcleaning:


…and a wildlife film-maker producing a video clip for showing in our new visitor shelter on Iona – more about this in due course!

Interspersed with some trips to other beautiful parts of the country for training courses on crofting and outdoor health and safety (and a bit of holiday too!) next up was phase 2 of the Changing Landscapes project, with the theme this year of Working the Land and Sea.  18 students from Oban High school joined tutors Donald Shaw, Eleanor MacDougall and Jan Sutch Pickard for a 2-night stay on Iona and produced some lovely original music and writing in both Gaelic and English about their experiences exploring the island, meeting local folk, investigating placenames, sights and sounds.  Their final performance in the Abbey was recorded professionally so the results will be available soon, meanwhile last year’s project is still available to view, and here’s a few photos of this year’s work in progress:


Not to be outdone, Iona primary school undertook their own project in parallel, and the two groups came together to compose and perform a song about Iona’s placenames.  Some of the primary school children also posed for a photoshoot to provide images for our new visitor shelter building too:


Nature clubs at both Iona and Bunessan primaries have looked at seed dispersal, bumblebees and snails (the snail racing was a particular highlight!) and I also spent time with the older Bunessan class investigating seaweeds and the effects of marine pollution:

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Add to that a final plant survey on the Ross, a cheery group of Explorer Scouts visiting from Perth for a foraging trip, checking Staffa’s infrastructure with the structural engineer and attending Burnet Moth study group and Mull Deer Management Group and you have a flavour of a ranger’s autumn.  Don’t forget deer stalking is underway, so please check before you walk in the hills, using the contact details in the Outdoors Mull leaflet available locally and the advice here.

Changing Landscapes

Time to feature a guest blog from Janna Greenhalgh, editor of ‘Round and About – Mull and Iona’ magazine: http://www.roundandaboutmull.co.uk/  Look out for R&A in local shops every month, with loads of useful information and events, including ranger news.

“The audience in Iona Abbey on Monday 23rd June was delighted by the performance of ‘Changing Landscapes’ by Oban High School pupils – a carefully blended mix of traditional music, song and poetry. This was the result of a project instigated by the National Trust for Scotland, which has education as part of its remit.

The youngsters came over to Iona for two days and learned something of its history and experienced present day Iona, concentrating on the changing landscape and the conservation of wildlife, with the aim of expressing their thoughts and feelings about this in their music and writing. ‘The whole project has been a wonderful experience’ said Emily Wilkins, National Trust Ranger for the Ross of Mull, Iona, Burg and Staffa: ‘especially as most of the pupils had never been to Iona before’

Members of the High School’s Traditional School of Music worked with Donald Shaw of Capercaillie, and Advanced Higher English pupils worked with local poet Jan Sutch Pickard. Both mentors took part in the performance along with the pupils, and the level of expertise and professionalism was astonishing after such a short preparation time. Credit must also go to Sileas Sinclair and MorvenMcKerrell, who work on a regular basis with the pupils of the Traditional School of Music.

The music was played with feeling as well as accuracy, and the songs and poems at times very moving.

Donald Shaw summed it up ‘Being creative with these young artists in such a magical environment on the edge of the world re-affirmed my belief that we are in a great moment for our culture’. ”                                            JCG

Fiona and Donald  IMG_6326 IMG_6386 Changing Landscapes perf days 2014_0458 IMG_6269 IMG_6302 Iona Day 1 of the Visit 054 IMG_6383IMG_6241

Have a look at the Changing Landscapes Flickr page for lots more photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/80087340@N06/sets/72157645160034325/