St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and the town, where his relics were kept, on the east coast of Fife overlooking the North Sea, was established as a pilgrimage site over 1000 years ago. Thousands of pilgrims made their way there every year until the Reformation. Now, St. Andrews is better known as the home of golf and the famous university where Prince William met Kate, but the ruins of the huge cathedral complex still dominate this spectacular seaside town and former royal burgh.
For more information please visit Historic Scotland.
The appetite for long distance walking/pilgrimage is growing and St Andrews has all the features which make a modern site of pilgrimage . You have probably heard of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrimage to this famous site in northern Spain was revived recently and now well over 200,000 people a year make the trip there from all over the world.
According to statistics from Santiago de Compostela:
Motives for going on pilgrimage, of course, vary but they mostly seem to comprise a desire to discover something new. Many pilgrims come back year after year.
It’s a great thing to do with friends or family or in a group, especially from school or as part of a youth organisation like the Scouts or Girl Guides. Or come on your own and make friends along the way.
Many other people go on pilgrimage for personal reasons; they are out of a job, they have lost someone they love or they just can’t see the way ahead. Or just to get away from 21st-century comforts and pressures for a bit. Also, sponsoring pilgrims is a great way of making money for charity.
It is absolutely clear that participating in this pilgrimage is open to all regardless of personal belief. You are not required to belong to the Roman Catholic Church or any denomination. All are welcome.
It’s really about reminding visitors to Scotland that the pilgrimage activity exists, and that is where social media is so important. So, please sign up and tell your friends. But, above all, get out there whether for a half day pilgrimage or the full experience from Edinburgh, Iona or wherever to St Andrews, and share your experience with others. Great pictures and film clips needed.
We also want to follow the example of other countries where pilgrimage is part of the school curriculum or encouraged as an extracurricular activity which looks good on the CV. There are many programmes, like the John Muir Award, Caritas and Greenteam, which aim at getting students away from their Ipods and out, to discover new things about the world and themselves- which fits perfectly with pilgrimage. We are conducting pilot schemes with various schools in Scotland and will let you know how these go.
The organisers are all unpaid volunteers from the Diocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews.
We do, however, need volunteers throughout Scotland so please let us know if you would like to help in this great revival.