‘To love it, be its best steward and pass it on, untarnished, to future generations.’

At Iona Hostel we are committed to working sustainably. We strive to provide an excellent service for our guests while minimising the environmental impact of our activities. Our membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme is a reflection of these practices.

The Place

Iona hostel opened in August 2001. It was built because there was no budget accommodation on the island and there was a perceived need for such.

It was designed and built with a clear environmental ethos. While there was neither time nor money to build a fully developed ‘eco-house’, I believe that within those constraints an attractive and environmentally friendly building and business has been created.

To look at the hostel from the outside you would think it is an agricultural building. It is! The hostel is essentially a sheep shed with a hostel hung inside it. We strove to build something with a small footprint and that sat comfortably with the local vernacular architecture.

The hostel could be easily removed from the landscape. It is effectively hung on 16 reclaimed telegraph poles and the foundations are mostly made up of insulation – not load-bearing. Corrugated tin was used for the skin so as to blend in with other agricultural buildings on the island as has been the building material of choice in this part of the world for the last 150 years. I am particularly pleased at how unobtrusively it sits in the landscape. Built in a hollow it is either virtually invisible or has a very low impact from most directions -an important consideration when building in an area of such precious beauty.

Much use has been made of recycled or antique fittings in the interior. The beautiful wood of the front door, the kitchen and common room, including the floor and the table, is all reclaimed timber from the whisky industry. Saw it, and you get a lovely waft of Glenmorangie ! Some of the rugs are Oriental and date from the 19th century and the lamp outside the door lit the way to a stable in the New Town in Edinburgh for a hundred years. The flooring is traditional organic lino: much warmer, more durable and kinder than vinyl and it also smells nice ! In the hall is the original Telegraph Box of Iona, dating from around 1911, I believe. Gorgeous –and utterly useless, but with plans that one day it will become the worlds smallest internet café!

The hostel is heavily insulated both on the outer and the inner walls, and the windows are Swedish triple glazed units. Given the gales that hit the north end in winter it does extremely well. The walls might shake – but they don’t let the cold through.

Outside the hostel, a garden, conservation area and woodland are being developed. It’s a haven for wildlife and I love working in it as time allows. A dry-stane wall was built by a local dyker and it is a very fine piece of work.

The hostel is located on the croft of Lagandorain, which I work in a relaxed sort of way. I have a flock of around 50 black Hebridean sheep (the native sheep to this area) from which I produce gorgeous woollen blankets and mutton, which is sold to local restaurants and through the hostel. Much of the land you see is in some sort of conservation scheme or another. The machair and much of what you see below Dun I is classed as Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and I am in conservation agreement with the National Trust for Scotland. Just behind Cnoc Buie is an area set aside for Corncrakes and Cnoc Buie itself is my own conservation project, as mentioned, with around 1500 native trees planted. Though not certified as Organic, in almost all respects I work to organic principles (animal medication being the exception). I had an environmental audit carried out on the croft a few years ago, and this is available for you to read on request. My longer term plans are to further strengthen the links between the croft and the hostel.

The Practice

At Iona Hostel my staff and I are committed to conducting business with respect for our environment. Our business and housekeeping practices are conscious choices with this goal in mind.

  • We ask our guests to leave their shoes in the lobby. This practice provides a cleaner and cosier atmosphere, and reduces the amount of cleaning agent used.
  • The air quality of Iona is wonderful. We allow the rooms to breath by daily opening the windows to let the air circulate. We use only dilute plant essential oils to freshen the bedrooms.
  • You will notice that the hostel is quieter than most. We sweep rather than vacuum as an aesthetic and environmental choice. There is no television or radio, rather, we have a small library in the Common room. We like top think of ourselves as a technology free zone! The internal walls are heavily insulated, and for the benefit of the majority we try to promote the hostel as a quiet and peaceful environment.
  • We use cloth towels in the kitchen and bathrooms rather than disposable paper products.
  • Our windows are triple glazed and we keep them clean with vinegar and water.
  • Our recycling site in the kitchen has bins for paper, glass, aluminium and tin. We also have a compost bin.

Housekeeping Supplies

  • We use recycled toilet paper
  • We keep the use of chlorine bleach to a strict minimum.
  • We use Ecover: washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, floor soap, washing powder, and cream cleaner.
  • Ecover products are biodegradable, contain no petrochemicals, artificial fragrances or colourants. Additionally, we also use a non-biological laundry powder. Enzyme based biological powders can cause skin irritation. We experiment with and monitor a variety of products.

Energy Conservation

  • We use low energy lightbulbs, inside and out.
  • We have a drying room, with dehumidifier, for damp clothing.
  • We burn waste construction timber and driftwood in the stove.
  • Our central heating is on a time switch and is on at peak times only.
  • We have thermostatic radiator valves in all rooms and which are turned down when rooms are not in use.
  • We divide our showers between two instant and two boiler supplied (in case of power cuts).
  • Toilets have reduced flush.
  • Our commercial washer and tumble dryer also have a low energy rating.
  • The building is heavily insulated throughout as is the hot water tank.

Wider connections

Our hostel garden is effectively organic. We build our soil from seaweed from the shore, cow manure and compost. Although our garden is primarily for our staff, when we have an abundance it is placed in the kitchen for our guests. Our Hebridean sheep provide gorgeous meat which is sold in the hostel, in season.

Green Tourism Business Scheme
We have been a ‘Gold’ member of this scheme for seven years and strongly support their work. Highly regarded and probably the foremost scheme of its kind in Europe you will find more information about it through the link here.

"John runs a very special place, where you can go and just be yourself, rest, recharge your batteries and return to your normal life with some of the spirit of Iona in your heart."

– From a review left on Tripadvisor

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© Iona Hostel Ltd.
Iona Hostel Ltd, Lagandorain, Isle of Iona, Argyll PA76 6SW
Company No: SC282142 Registered in Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)1681 700 781