Kirk plans Holy Island trip from Firth of Forth

Members of the Northern Cross Pilgrims, a Christian group, carrying crosses to the Holy Island for their annual pilgrimmage.
Members of the Northern Cross Pilgrims, a Christian group, carrying crosses to the Holy Island for their annual pilgrimmage.
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A NEW pilgrim route is being planned from the Firth of Forth to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to help people explore their spiritual side – and get fit at the same time.

The idea has come from a group of enthusiasts involved in the annual Haddington to Whitekirk pilgrimage.

The new pilgrim’s way would stretch for around 55 miles from East Lothian down the coast to Lindisfarne in Northumberland, with one core route and optional branches to places of spiritual and or cultural importance.

It would follow existing coastal paths and the John Muir Way as much as possible.

In a vision statement, the organisers say they want to create a route which can be available for people to walk at a time of their choosing, either as a whole long-distance pilgrimage or in shorter sections.

They go on: “Our aim is to make available a pilgrimage walking and possibly cycling route to enable those who 
undertake it to experience the beauty of the world around them, and through this experience not only to improve their physical and mental wellbeing but also to enable spiritual growth.”

The new pilgrim’s way would probably start at Aberlady, whose history includes an Anglo Saxon cross – only a fragment of which survives – with a geometric knotwork pattern, similar to that found in the early eighth-century Lindisfarne Gospels.

Other stopping points are likely to include Coldingham Priory, which dates back to 640 AD; St Abb’s Head, which has the remains of another seventh-century monastery nearby; and the wide, sandy bay and high cliffs of Eyemouth.

The Rev Joanne Evans-Boiten, minister at Athelstaneford linked with Whitekirk and Tyninghame church, said: “The project would let anyone at any time travel the whole, long-distance pilgrim route or tackle it in shorter sections.

“Churchgoers or not, people today are often looking for a spiritual dimension in their lives and this route would enable them to experience the beauty of the world around them and through this experience, enable spiritual growth.

“We’d introduce them to an area of south-east Scotland and north-east England which is historically very important having strong links to early Christianity.”

As well as from benefiting individuals, the pilgrim route would also attract people to the area, promote tourism and boost the local economy.

“And it fits well with the Scottish Government’s Let’s Get Scotland Walking approach to improving health.”

The group behind the new route are due to meet Nick Cooke, of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, to discuss the plan. They hope also to bring together faith and secular groups, as well as councils, businesses and landowners to help make it a success.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com