A 62-mile route once regularly taken by 11th- and 12-century Christians will soon be open to pilgrims in Scotland. The medieval pilgrimage route called the Way of St. Andrews is being developed to mimic the popular Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
The Way of St. Andrews starts at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh and ends in St. Andrews. Hugh Lockhart, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, came up with the initiative after learning about the Spanish trek, which attracts 200,000 people a year.
Lockhart will be among a group of 60 pilgrims to walk the route in July. The path follows the old route out of Edinburgh called St. Margaret’s Way.
“It captured my imagination, the idea of walking through the countryside and arriving at this fantastic church, and then I heard that St. Andrews had once been a great place of pilgrimage before the Reformation, so we decided to give it a go and see what would happen,” said Lockhart.
The Way of St. Andrews also has the support of the Scottish Catholic Church, which is intent on keeping the path open to people of every religion.
The route leaves Edinburgh and goes through South Queensferr, Burntisland, Leven, Earlsferry and Fife, which once held the largest church in Scotland. Along the way, travelers can visit St. Fillan’s Cave in Pittenweem, home of an 8th century hermit, and Chapel Green near Lower Largo, which once housed a small church used by pilgrims.
“We think many of the original pilgrim routes have been turned into bus routes by now,” said Lockhart. “But the route, particularly from Earlsferry up to St. Andrews is most certainly a route that pilgrims would have gone on. You get a real shiver down your spine when walking on it.”
Professor John Lennon, an expert in travel and tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, is confident that the Way of St. Andrews has the potential to become a well-trod tourist activity.
“Walking is a major activity and a big product in Scotland,” said Lennon. “This is slightly different from the walks that people come to Scotland to do, such as the West Highland Way and the Southern Upland Way, because it has a pilgrimage focus.”