The Sound Of Iona

One mile, Mull to Iona

Gus, myself and our two boys have been going to Iona every summer for the last five years and every year the tantalising bit of water between Mull and Iona has been calling us to swim it. The Sound of Iona isn’t far by SLSC standards but a mile is long enough for the first big sea swim for Gus and me. Last year we had it all planned – we had asked a local boatman, Mark Jardine, to support us and he had looked at tides and suggested a good day – the evening before the sea was flat and calm, perfect, but overnight the winds blew up and on the day of our proposed swim the weather was so bad that it was hard to see the sea through the rain let alone swim in it.

This year we booked Mark for three days when slack tide was either in the early morning or evening. By five o’clock on Saturday evening the Sound of Iona was very calm and the sun was shining as we went to meet Mark on the jetty. We could see him on his lovely old sailing boat that he takes people out in - to see puffins on Staffa or trips to secluded beaches on Mull. Mark waved and jumped into his rubber dinghy which he rowed to an old wooden dinghy and came to pick up Gus, myself and my brother Jamie. Rowena, Jamie’s partner, our two boys and their cousin all stayed on the beach waiting to greet us when we returned.

Mark took us over to Mull and to a tiny beach below a disused quarry in a stretch of water called the Bull Hole. ‘Once out of the Bull Hole head for the Abbey and the current will push you towards the jetty’’ said Mark as we waded to the beach. The water was beautifully clear and cold, about 13C. After the first shiver it felt good to be in the water though quite hard to tell where we were from so low down. But I could see the Abbey so headed for that. About half way it seemed as though the Abbey was still the same distance away and Mark in the boat waved and asked us to head slightly left as the current wasn’t as strong as he thought. I had been stung by jellyfish the day before so wasn’t too worried when I got stung again going over the sand bar. Here the water rolled and lolled as the sea became shallow. Then all of a sudden we were among the moored boats off St Ronan’s Bay and we were heading for the beach, weaving between the buoys and dinghies to be met by Tom, Alfie, Billy and Rowena.

So only a forty minute swim but it felt good to say we swam the Sound of Iona. Later that evening we went to the beach party, also called the Sound of Iona, run by the Monastery of Sound!

By Sue Rentoul