Iona Visitor Shelter

Roots Architecture Limited

Each year the Isle of Iona is reported to receive around 130,000 visitors who travel across as foot passengers on the ferry. Iona Abbey, a building of international significance, is a main draw for many visitors who travel there specifically to learn about the cultural and religious history of the island.

The Iona Visitor Shelter was an important opportunity for the National Trust for Scotland to highlight the significance of the island’s other assets of natural flora and fauna whilst introducing visitors to the conservation and education work that is carried out by NTfS to help protect this unique habitat.

Acting as an informal visitor centre/exhibition space, the shelter was intended to provide a much needed landing and orientation point for visitors to the island. Our brief was to design a building that would belong in the village whilst also welcome in visitors passing on their way to and from the ferry.

In our response to the brief we sought to acknowledge the history of the shed that existed on the site previously and its role in the island’s social culture as Fire Station and Ferry Waiting Room. We chose to work with the same form of the original shed on the exterior and tie the material palette in with colours featured on neighbouring buildings. Understanding the severity of the exposed island climate we opted to incorporate more contemporary durable materials that would require less maintenance than some of the materials used previously.

To make the space inviting we have used roof lights to draw natural daylight deep within the building to brighten the space. The barn doors that were a feature of the previous shed were replaced by large window openings to make the clean contemporary space inside as inviting as possible to passers-by. We designed bespoke furniture for the building to encourage visitors to linger there and socialise over packed lunches on a wet day. The interior space is enlivened by 3 long dramatic benches made from a smooth, rich, honey-coloured, sustainable Iroko that brings warmth to the interior. Matching benches were designed to activate the open space to the front of the Visitor Shelter in better weather and add to the building's effectiveness as a visible social space and meeting point.


Iona Visitor Shelter
Baile Mor
United Kingdom


Micheal Holliday
Director and Chartered Architect


The National Trust for Scotland






  • Public