Epic Journeys and Pilgrimages

 

Throughout history our ancestors have trodden the landscape, driving cattle, trading goods, exploring and undertaking pilgrimages. Long-distance walking was once a part of everyday life and following in the footsteps of those who completed incredible journeys can be an enlightening experience. The range of walks featured here have been inspired by the grand journeys and pilgrimages taken in times gone by and that still remain for us to enjoy.

The Saints' Way


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As far back as the Bronze ages, a trading route was known to exist between the north and south coast of Cornwall. Along this route, traders would drive their animals, fattening them up along the way, while mariners were thought to cross to avoid the treacherous waters around Land's End. For these reasons, the route has been known as the 'Drovers' Way' and the 'Mariners' Way', but in Cornish, it is known as Forth an Syns, the Saints' Way. Between the ancient Cornish crosses that are scattered along the route, pilgrims are believed to have made their journey as they travelled between Ireland, Wales and Europe. Today, a collection of shrines, standing stones, Neolithic sites and ancient footbridges remain, making this a fascinating walk that also happens to feature an incredible variety of scenery. Secluded valleys, wild moors and delightful ancient field systems, this is a walk with timeless appeal.

 

Land's End Round


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Before walking around one of the most ruggedly beautiful coastlines in Britain on the Far West of Cornwall, the Land's End Round ventures inland, along St Michael's Way. As well as forming a circular walk, this option allows you to experience St Michael's Way, a superb route once used by pilgrims and missionaries to avoid the treacherous waters of Land's End. The route involves just a 10 mile (16km) extension, but offers excellent views over Cornwall, visits the ancient churches once frequented by pilgrims and is the only footpath in Britain to be designated a European Cultural Route.

 

Shakespeare's Way


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Just like any book, it is wise to start at the beginning and in the spirit of all things literary, the Shakespeare's Way walk starts where William Shakespeare began his life's journey in 1564. Stratford-upon-Avon - the birthplace of 'The Bard' and where he lived with his wife and their children. With its timber framed buildings and bustling high street, it is easy to forget that the very same streets once carried the world famous playwright. Yet as you explore Shakespeare's Birthplace, you will get a sense of what shaped the man who penned some of the world's most beautiful poetry and coined many of the words we use today.

By 1592, Shakespeare had a successful career as an actor and writer in London. His personal life remains a mystery, but one thing that is certain is that he would have travelled frequently between his home in Stratford-upon-Avon and The Globe Theatre in London, where his plays were performed. The Shakespeare's Way walk follows the most likely route he would have taken. Perhaps you too, will be inspired by the journey.

 

St Bega's Way


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St Bega was an Irish princess who is believed to have lived in the Middle Ages. She was a devout Christian and it is said that when her father promised her in marriage to a Viking prince, St Bega fled across the Irish Sea. She landed in St Bees and settled as a hermit, healing the sick and devoting her life to God. The St Bega's Way walks between two places that were closely connected to St Bega - St Bees Priory and St Bega's Church on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. As you walk along coastal cliffs to glassy lakes and mountain scenes, you will trace the journey of St Bega, learning about the mysterious tales that surround her life and death.

 

Bob Graham Round


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The Bob Graham Round takes its name from an adventurous Keswick guest-house owner who, in 1932, decided to visit a peak for every year of his life. At 41 years old, the idea was already no mean feat, but to satisfy his burning ambition for a record breaking challenge, Bob Graham vowed to complete all 41 peaks in the space of 24 hours. His first attempt in 1931 failed due to poor weather, but the following year, with another peak added for a new year of his life, Bob Graham completed his round - a total of 42 peaks, 66 miles and 27,000ft of ascent.

Our version of the Bob Graham Round tackles the route at a somewhat slower pace, but the magnitude of the challenge should not be underestimated. With the route extended slightly so that each day ends in a village with a comfy bed for the night, the trail takes in 74 miles of mountainous terrain and 29,100ft of ascent - that's like climbing Everest from sea level or Ben Nevis almost 7 times!

 

North Downs Way via Canterbury


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Canterbury is an important centre of pilgrimage, being the start of the Santiago de Compostela route to Spain and the Via Francigena to Rome. It is also home to the shrine of Thomas Becket, who was martyred at Canterbury Cathedral in the 12th century. Ever since, pilgrims have visited the great symbol of Christianity that is the glorious Canterbury Cathedral, often following the route of the Pilgrim's Way from Winchester. It is along this route that the North Downs Way joins for a time, before pausing in Canterbury to allow for reflection, exploration, or simply a rest.

 

St Oswald's Way


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Oswald, King of Northumbria was the most powerful ruler in Britain during the 7th century. Throughout his reign, Oswald spread the word of Christianity in Northumbria and in the Middle Ages, he was made a saint. St Oswald's Way links some of the most fascinating locations associated with Oswald. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne where he established a monastery, Bamburgh, his royal capital and Heavenfield, where he defeated Pagan kings to regain his father's kingdom, are amongst the captivating locations visited by this trail as you trace Oswald's spiritual journey.

 

St Cuthbert's Way


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St Cuthbert was a monk and a hermit, a preacher and Prior of Melrose and Lindisfarne. During the 7th century, he travelled throughout Scotland and the north of England spreading the word of Christianity and some say, performing miracles. St Cuthbert's Way follows the spiritual journey of St Cuthbert, starting in the Scottish Borders where his monastic life began at Melrose Abbey and finishing on Holy Island, where he was once Bishop and where his shrine is located. If the tide times allow, you can even cross the causeway to Lindisfarne in the true manner of the pilgrims, barefoot along the Pilgrims' Path.

 

Lady Anne's Way


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Lady Anne Clifford spent 38 years fighting to regain control of her father's estates after they were unjustly inherited by her uncle. On gaining control of the estates, she devoted her time to restoring the castles, building bridges, almshouses and travelling between each castle, dedicating her time, money and care to the careful restoration of each building. The Lady Anne's Way is based upon the route taken by Lady Anne Clifford when visiting her castles. From Skipton Castle, where she was born to Barden, Pendragon, Appleby, Brough and finally to Brougham Castle where she died in 1676. Following the ancient green lane of Lady Anne Highway, the trail explores Mallerstang, the Eden Valley and many pretty Yorkshire villages and market towns. With a landscape so peaceful and picturesque, it is easy to see why Lady Anne Clifford felt so passionately about the conservation of her estates.

 

Pembrokeshire Coast Path


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St David is the patron saint of Wales. He was born around 500 AD in the tiny city that bears his name and was so taken by the area that he decided to found his monastery there. St David's Cathedral was later built on the site of the original, but ruined site of the monastery. It became a major destination for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, with two pilgrimages to St David's equalling one to Rome.

The cathedral itself is home to beautiful carvings, of stone and wood, a large number of tombs and effigies. The bones of St David are believed to be held in the Holy Trinity Chapel and his shrine, or what's left of it, remains in the Presbytery, albeit now empty. The building is neighboured by the medieval Bishop's Palace and, of course, the spectacular coastline of Pembrokeshire.

Pass through St David's on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, or use it as your base on the single centre Pembrokeshire Coast Path Short Break.