|The A to Z of Scottish Places: Gazetteer I|
The A to Z of Scottish Places: I
I is for...
Lying on the mouth of the river Ness as it flows from the famous loch into the Moray Firth, Inverness is the "capital" and main administrative centre for a vast region of Scotland, the Highlands. There is evidence that a town has been here for over 2000 years although the first historical reference is that of St Columba when he came to confront the pictish King Brude in AD 565. The original castle was built in the 12th century and it was here that Macbeth murdered Duncan. It was destroyed in 1307 by Robert the Bruce. The present castle is relatively young, built in 1834. However many older sites have survived, including Cromwell's Clock Tower, the 16th century Abertarff House and the graveyard of a Dominican Priory. The royal burgh has seen a boom in industry in recent years, partly due to oil exploration, and remains a good base for touring the north and west of the country.
An important focus for Scottish Christianity, Iona, a small island off the south-western edge of Mull, was chosen by St Columba as a religious centre in 563. Although a place of peace and tranquillity, the island has seen its share of violence: at the hands of the Vikings, who killed 68 monks at what is now known as Martyrs' Bay in 806, and during the Reformation when all the buildings were dismantled and 350 of the island's crosses destroyed. The buildings have been rebuilt many times, but it has been the Iona Community since 1938 who have restored the majority of the monastic structures seen today. Many Scottish, Norwegian and Irish monarchs are buried here although none of these crypts survive. Much smaller than its neighbour, it is interesting to note that in geological terms Iona is much older than Mull.
Irvine, a name which possibly means "place of the white river", was once the major seaport for the city of Glasgow, and the extensive harbour hosts the Scottish Maritime Museum and a new attraction in the form of The Big Idea, a hands-on science museum primarily with children in mind. Designated a new town, Irvine is presently an awkward mix of the old with the new although recent developments seem to be taking the aesthetic as well as the functional into account. Like many Ayrshire towns, Irvine is associated with poet Robert Burns - he stayed there for two years learning the flax-dressing trade - and the town has the oldest continuous Burns Club in the world.
World-renowned for its strong tasting peaty malt whisky, Islay lies to the west of the Kintyre peninsula. The western shore is fertile while the east is more rugged and boggy. The main industries are still farming, fishing and whisky with no less than seven famous distilleries in the area. In the past Islay. like Iona, was a place of significance in Scottish Christianity and to the Lords of the Isles who were crowned there. One of the most interesting settlements is Bowmore where as well as the distillery, there is the Round Church, erected in 1769. It was built in this circular fashion so that the devil could find no corners to hide in.