seaweed sunrise

In the first week of January I journeyed to the wilds of Scotland to visit my lovely friend Rachel on the Isle of Iona. She has lived there for many years since meeting her dear John who has a croft and a hostel at the north end of the island.

Iona sunrise

For years I have seen Rachel's photos of white sands, glowing rocks, clear sea and huge skies and I have enjoyed her #todayschangingroom series on Instagram where she photographs her clothes and her yellow wellies on the rocks before she goes for her daily dip, but I hadn't yet made a visit.

Rachel Hazell - today's changing room

I used to travel a lot on my own to visit friends in far flung places but somehow, since covid times and after my world got so much smaller post hysterectomy I found I had lost my bottle. When Rachel sent the invitation my initial reaction was 'I can''s too far, it's January, what about the winter weather, have I got the energy?' but when I heard her voice down the phone and remembered how much fun we have together and how we always come away super inspired the 'I can't' became a big YES. Two trains, a coach, an overnight stop in Oban, a ferry, a bus across Mull and another ferry later, there were Rachel, John and Snuffy dog waving at me from the pier as the boat got in and I was SO HAPPY to be there. 

The Green Shed, self catering cottage on Iona

John built The Green Shed about 23 years ago. It used to be a hostel that slept 24 but during Covid there was an urgency to change their business model, so they divided it up and now there are three wonderfully beautiful and cosy self catering places under this roof all within a few minutes of two stunning beaches. I shared The Sea Room with their wonderful young 'work away' called Meg who inspired me with everything she has learned since living on Iona; bee keeping (their honey is delicious), fishing, weaving, tree planting, keeping sheep and so much more. She was radiant with the whole experience.

Iona cottage

And Rachel and John live here, in a cosy cottage full of curiosities;

Rachel Hazell book art

antiques, craft, art, books, bits of boat, driftwood and a great great great grandfather clock that keeps the time.


The name of the cottage translates as 'the hollow of the otters' so I was full of hope at seeing some.

Iona sunrise

That hope got me out of the door at sunrise

crescent moon Iona

under a beautiful crescent moon and a clear sky.

beach north Iona

It's wonderful to wake up in a place SO different from home. All my senses were wide awake and I wanted to take it all in and not miss a moment.

beach Iona

I watched the hooded crows on the beach, listened to the crashing of the waves, embraced the cold breeze on my face, got fascinated by a bird I didn't know hovering above the marram grass (found it later to be a stonechat)

sunrise Iona

and I watched the sky turn all shades of candy.

otter tracks on the beach in Iona

I didn't see any otters but I did see prints! It was nice at least to know they were close by.

Rachel Hazell & John Maclean

It was wonderful to be on Iona with these two islanders. They knew the way through the heath and moss,

looking out to sea on Iona

they knew which lands could be seen across the water,

sandwiches in baking paper tied up with string

 they wrapped their sarnies like THIS

and they knew the best rock to sit on to eat them, although they failed to mention it was over 200 million years old until we got home (that's the rock, not the sandwich)!

Rachel Hazell

Everywhere we went we bumped into their friends and neighbours and listening to all the chat was a lovely insight into island life. I got to visit Rowena Brown's ceramic studio which was a treat and I was introduced to Rona who makes gorgeous papier mache birds. There are so many creatives here!

wild carrot seed head

There was a lot of beauty to hold in my short visit and I wanted to be everywhere all at once;

the bench to watch the stars by

 on the 'bench to watch the stars by',

starry sky Iona

under the sparkling night sky,


the whalebone studio

in Rachel's beautiful 'Whalebone studio' (imagine the journey it made to get here),

glowing rocks at sunrise on Iona

and among the glowing rocks

lichen and seaweed shadows

searching for shadows and treasure.

Rachel Hazell on the beach

 It was just a joy to be together,

Iona sky

under the big skies

sunrise on the beach Iona

and on those sandy beaches that I had only seen in photos.

wild carrot silhouette on Iona machair

People travel to Iona from all over the world. When I told people I was going, everybody had a tale to tell about the magical feeling they got from being there. Now I have my own.

I had a teary moment one day, when I realised how elevated and inspired I felt by being there with my friend, when I so nearly didn't come. Yes it was far away, but every bit of the journey was stunning. It was January but that made for winter skies, frost in the dunes and gorgeous sunrises. And as far as whether I would have enough energy, it GAVE me that in bounds.

The only otters I saw were on the back of a Scottish ten pound note! But I guess that means I just might have to go again...

There's an absolutely beautiful film made by my friend Sarah, all about The Green Shed here. It's a beaut. My friend Rachel is a bookbinder and teaches workshops in romantic places, Iona included.



Stunning Hannah, what an absolutely amazing place! And to be with such dear friends…i’ve not visited Iona or much of Scotland at all but will plan a visit having read your blog, and seen such wonderful photos. Northumberland for me in February, looking forward to walking the wild beaches and cosying down in the evenings. So pleased you found the energy and confidence to see your friend xx


What a lovely experience, and a beautiful part of the world. I’ve love to visit some day! I particularly was taken with the photo of Orion over the house – I can see the same stars through my skylight during the winter months, and it never ceases to amaze me how they are also right there, thousands of miles away.


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Hannah Nunn

Welcome to my blog

I'm Hannah Nunn, designer/maker of papercut lamps, wallpaper, window film and laser cut 'treasures' all inspired by the beautiful details of nature. Find out what inspires me and join me for walks in the woods and other adventures...


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