The Community of Iona

In 1758, a soldier in the British Army, by the name of Donald “Og” MacNeil, took part in the Siege of Louisburg. For several years before that, while scouting in and about Cape Breton Island, Donald “Og” was extremely impressed by the beauty and advantages of the Bras d’Or Lake and its surroundings. On his trips to his home in Barra while serving in the British Army, he repeatedly impressed upon his relatives and associates, that if ever they were to migrate to Canada, they should settle in that part of the Lake’s northern bank which we know today as “Iona”. In 1759, Donald “Og” also took part in the Taking of Quebec. After the defeat of General Montcalm’s army on the Plains of Abraham, Donald “Og” was ordered to raise the British flag. In the attempt to do so, he was killed by a French sniper and buried in Quebec.

The first Scots to carry out the instructions that Donald “Og” had detailed for them some forty years earlier were Donald (Rory) and his son Rory, as well as Eoin (Donald, John) and his son John who left Barra and arrived in Pictou in the fall of 1799. They made their way to Arisaig where they remained for the winter. In the spring of 1800, the 4 boarded a small boat and headed for the location which was so richly described for them by Donald “Og”. They staked their claim and began the task of clearing the land. That year would see large numbers of immigrants, all Roman Catholics, arriving from the Island of Barra. Many found their was to The Grand Narrows and still remembering their old home, they named the narrow passage which connects the two sections of the Bras d’Or Lake the Straits of Barra.

The Iona Peninsula, which is located in the center of Cape Breton Island, is almost completely surrounded by the Bras d’Or Lake - Canada’s only Inland Sea. The Village of Iona (pop 135) which is located on the western side of the Barra Strait, is rich in Scottish heritage. Its name, which was Grand Narrows at one point, was changed by the Statute of Nova Scotia in 1891 to Iona. Today, the MacNeils and MacKenzies, the MacLeans and MacDonalds, and the Gillises and Campbells “All Call Iona Home.”

Iona is home to the Highland Village Outdoor Pioneer Museum, which recreates Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage. Through numerous historic buildings with costumed staff, the Village gives testimony to the strength of character and love of home and family of the pioneers. The Village is set on a hillside overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes.



Chantal’s Antiques

Christmas Island Volunteer Fire Department

Grand Narrows Waterfront & Barra Strait Marina

Iona CAP site

Iona Volunteer Fire Department

Little Narrows Community Centre (Tourist Information Centre)

McCormack Provincial Picnic Park

Port of Iona

Post Office

Rankin School of the Narrows

St. Barra Roman Catholic Church

St. Columba Parish Centre (also emergency centre)

St. Columba Roman Catholic Church

Washabuck Community Center

Wheelhouse Cafe - Grand Narrows (summer operation)



Accommodations in the area consist of:

Iona Heights Inn

Hector’s Arm B&B

The Grand Narrows Hotel



Take a tour of The Highland Village Museum. Visit

Visit for up-to-date information on events and activities in the area

Visit for up-to-date information on entertainment at the Legion

Enjoy a scenic drive around the Iona Peninsula