Why choose a pilgrimage walk?
While a walking holiday as we know it today is a relatively new concept, people have been undertaking walking trips in the form of pilgrimages for many centuries. For some people, a pilgrimage was the only opportunity they had to leave their home villages and was closely associated with their religious beliefs. Today, many pilgrimage routes are chosen by holidaying walkers – and for an array of different reasons, including religious or spiritual beliefs and the historical significance of attractions en route or at the start and finish of a walk. Every pilgrimage walk will feature superb scenery and create long-lasting memories, especially if you record it with photos as you journey the route. We take a look at some of the best pilgrimage walks in the world.
The pilgrimage routes also offer a fantastic personal challenge both in terms of exploring new places and boosting your fitness. Did you know you could walk a route for a month and still have more miles to go? If you choose a section of a pilgrimage walk for one holiday you can return to walk the next section on another occasion. You could be walking pilgrimage routes in this way for many years to come.
Pilgrims celebrate at the end of the Camino de Santiago, Europe's most popular pilgrimage route.
On top of all this you are sure to meet new and like-minded people as you walk because the pilgrimage routes are wonderfully popular and usually very sociable.
Choosing a pilgrimage route
The Pilgrimage routes that criss-cross the world are often the focus of people who want to trace historic routes based on religious beliefs or stories they have heard throughout their lifetimes. Perhaps they have read of famous routes, such as the Christian Camino routes of Europe, or heard about places of religious or spiritual significance dotted along these way-marked paths. For example, on July 25, the people of Spain celebrate St James’ Day. The Bible reveals that Saint James was one of the first disciples of Jesus and some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela. This is the famous culmination of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) pilgrimage route.
In other countries, such as Japan, walkers can choose to follow in the spiritual footsteps of 11th century imperial pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo Trail to the Grand Shrines of Kumano. Or how about visiting the highlights of Japan’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage route? The history that is witnessed on these very special routes will create many amazing memories.
Nicola, our Japan specialist, at Tsumago on the Shikoku "88 Temples Trail".
The pilgrimage routes feature world-famous historic landmarks and attractions. The St Cuthbert’s Way in UK follows a beautiful trail through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and finishes at the Holy Island, one of Europe’s most famous historic and religious sites. The Telegraph newspaper listed St Cuthbert’s Way as one of its five top UK pilgrimage walks, as well as The Saints’ Way and the Pilgrim’s Way.
Gayle makes the crossing at low tide to Holy Island, on St Cuthbert's Way.
St Andrews Cathedral.
Scotland’s pilgrim journeys bring together the travels of Scotland’s Celtic Saints and Medieval traditions of pilgrimage, as well as highlight attractions, such as the stunning ruins of St Andrews Cathedral in Fife on the Way of St Andrews and St Columba’s Way, which starts on the historic Isle of Iona on the west coast and finishes in the town of St Andrews. For walkers looking for an epic challenge, many of the pilgrimage walks travel long distances. The Full Camino (the French Way) is 770km and will take most people around 40 days. Now that’s a challenge! Or you could walk different sections of the Camino over different holidays. That is also a great challenge!
Indeed, if you reach the end of the Camino and have walked at least 100km you cane claim a "compestela' certificate. Many people say this is one of the reasons for choosing a pilgrimage route. See the many options for walking the Camino de Santiago.
If you have been inspired, which ancient steps do you plan to follow?