Leading Visitor Attractions 2016: Historic Environment Scotland

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Iona Abbey © David Gill

The 2016 figures for Leading Visitor Attractions have been published. They include figures for properties in the care of Historic Environment Scotland (Historic Scotland).

The properties are:

  • no. 16: Edinburgh Castle, 1,778,548
  • no. 68: Stirling Castle, 481,970
  • no. 84: Urquhart Castle, 396,397
  • no. 103: Glasgow Cathedral, 296,062
  • no. 177: Skara Brae, 93,375
  • no. 182: Doune Castle, 90,279
  • no. 188: St Andrews Castle, 77,038
  • no. 190: Linlithgow Palace, 74,428
  • no. 194: Iona Abbey, 65,092
  • no. 198: Fort George, 60,924
  • no. 200: Melrose Abbey, 52,073
  • no. 203: Argyll’s Lodgings, 49,197
  • no. 210: St Andrews Cathedral, 46,488
  • no. 212: Tantallon Castle, 42,708
  • no. 215: Caerlaverock Castle, 35,633
  • no. 219: Elgin Cathedral, 30,502
  • no. 220: Blackness Castle, 30,053

Significant rises were seen in the numbers for Edinburgh Castle, Urquhart Castle, Glasgow Cathedral (62%), Doune Castle, Linlithgow Palace, St Andrews Cathedral, Elgin Cathedral and Blackness Castle.

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Linlithgow Palace © David Gill

Iona: MacLean’s Cross

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Iona, MacLean’s Cross © David Gill

MacLean’s Cross stands on the road between Port Rònain and the Abbey, not far from the nunnery and adjacent to the parish church. The route was the Sràid nam Marbh, or the ‘Street of the Dead’. The cross was commissioned in the late 15th century by the clan chief of the MacLeans of Duart.

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Iona, MacLean’s Cross © David Gill

The cross is more than 3 m tall. Pilgrims to the island would have stood facing the cross from the west side on which there is a carved crucifixion. Above the cross is a lily that symbolises the Virgin Mary.

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Iona, MacLean’s Cross, east face © David Gill

On the reverse of the cross is a patterned motif, with two animals below the cross head.

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Iona, MacLean’s Cross © David Gill

The cross is the oldest monument in State Guardianship on the island. The cross still rests in the original socket slab, but the base is more recent. A Ministry of Works sign was provided to explain the cross.

Iona: The Michael Chapel

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The Michael Chapel (2012) © David Gill

The Michael Chapel is located to the east of the abbey complex. It probably dates to the 13th century. The chapel was restored in 1959 when it adopted the association with Michael.

Between 2012 and 2014 the old Ministry signage was replaced with the new look Historic Scotland boards.

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Iona, The Michael Chapel (2014) © David Gill

Iona and the public display of early Christian art

© David Gill
Replica of St John’s Cross, Iona © David Gill

The great replica of St John’s Cross dominates the western end of the Abbey on Iona. It has a span of some 2.2 m. (The original is in the site museum.) It appears to date from the 700s or 800s. The original cross was made from stone brought from Loch Sween in Argyll.

A cast of St John’s Cross features in the newly opened The ‘Celts: Art and Identity’ exhibition that has opened at The British Museum.

2001 [rev. ed. 2011]
2001 [rev. ed. 2011]
2011 [rev. 2014]
2011 [rev. 2014]
How far are these early Christian images ‘Celtic’? I find it interesting that the Historic Scotland guidebooks to Iona Abbey and Nunnery by Anna Ritchie and Ian Fisher (2001, rev. ed. 2011) and by Peter Yeoman and Nicki Scott (2011) appear to avoid the use of the word ‘Celtic’.

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