THE President of Ireland will visit Iona tomorrow to mark the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on the tiny island.

Michael D Higgins and his actress wife Sabrina will be joined by poets, academics and musicians from Ireland for the visit, which will celebrate the Gaelic heritage shared by the two countries.

He will deliver a keynote address entitled 'Of Migrants and Migration', expected to focus on the Gaelic diaspora down the centuries.

President Higgins, himself a poet, writer and sociologist, follows in the footsteps of Mary Robinson who went to Iona in 1997, late on in her presidency, for the 1400th anniversary of the death of St Columba.

The early migrant had sailed from Ireland in a coracle with 12 followers. He landed on the south of the island at a place still known in Gaelic as Port a`Churaich, meaning Bay of the Coracle.

His arrival on the three-mile long island heralded the spread of Christianity.

Rev Peter Macdonald, leader of the Iona Community, will welcome the Irish leader along with Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's Culture Secretary, and Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, who is the local MSP.

Mr Macdonald said that President Higgins had been invited for the Pentecost celebrations in May. "He was unable to come on that occasion but he expressed a personal wish to come and recognised that given the clear links with Ireland it would be appropriate to have a presidential visit," he said.