old British trails in beautiful scenery

<span>Caw Gap on Hadrian’s Wall.</span><span>Photo: Daverhead/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/lmBYopIoA3Kwk092p5DdJg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/2096ab14419bed56550a9 36384d41c0f” data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/lmBYopIoA3Kwk092p5DdJg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/2096ab14419bed56550a93638 4d41c0f”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Scratch hole on Hadrian’s wall.Photo: Daverhead/Getty Images

The Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage Route

Get started Huizen Fort
Finish Roman temple Brocolita
Distance 4¼ miles (use regular AD122 bus to shorten if necessary)
Those who walk the entire 80 miles of Hadrian’s Wall in a week might call it a pilgrimage of sorts. But in recent years the ever-innovative British Pilgrimage Trust has worked with English Heritage to design historic pilgrimage routes – taking in ancient sites across Britain – including the 23-mile stretch between Housesteads and Corbridge. For a pilgrimage with a Roman twist, start at Housesteads Roman Fort – a place where ‘hooded gods’ are said to have been worshipped. Then walk east to see the mile castles, turrets and the temple remains dedicated to Mithras, the Roman god of light (use the Hadrian’s Wall bus to return to the start).

St. Patrick’s Camino, Newcastle, Province down

Get started/finish Harbor House, Newcastle
Distance 3-7¾ miles
Established by the St Patrick’s Center in Downpatrick as a guided offering (still available as a day trip for £45 per person), this Irish Camino takes you to the town where CS Lewis holidayed as a child and no doubt heard the legends of the neighboring mountain Slieve Donard – is said to contain a hermitage for Saint Donart, as well as, in Irish mythology, a tomb of mythical figures and a doorway to the other world.

As you wander around the city in a loop (a matter of using your nose or following a map from the center), the goal is the Narnia-esque Tollymore Forest Park, where a choice of trails can create a circular walk through giant redwoods and rock outcrops. and over stepping stones and 16 bridges over the Shimna River – an area of ​​special scientific interest for its rare mosses, Atlantic salmon population and geology. Evidence of prehistoric man has also been discovered here.

John Bunyan path, Bedfordshire

Get started/finish Sundon Hills Country Park
Distancee 2½ miles

Published in 1678, The Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages, has never been out of print and has influenced writers such as CS Lewis, Charlotte Brontë and Enid Blyton. This path is named after the author, who was imprisoned for preaching. In 1995, the Bedfordshire Ramblers group created a memorial walking trail that transposes places from his book to the real-life locations on which the writer based his tome. This section starts where one of Bunyan’s persecutors lived and meanders through the chalky landscape to the top of Sharpenhoe Clappers (carved out of Streatley for this shorter route) – an outcropping of tree-covered ground that rises dramatically from the flat arable land around it.

Cuckmere Pilgrim Path, E Sussex

Get started/finish Berwick station
Distancee 1-11¼ miles
In 2014, Will Parsons and Guy Hayward spotted an ancient path on the 14th-century Gough map (one of the oldest maps of Britain) that linked churches and holy places. They used it to try to revive what they called the Old Way, which linked Southampton to Canterbury – an act that sparked a renewed interest in following ancient paths. Inspired by their work, an East Sussex resident, Reverend Peter Blee, decided in 2018 to create this circular route (split into six further shortened options) that touches many of its points, and includes seven churches nationwide. But what makes it so special is the chance to wander among the clay and chalk of the South Downs, Low Weald and the archaeologically rich Cuckmere Valley, admiring a wizened 1,600 year old yew tree and bird skins for migratory and nesting birds to spot. , and the Long Man of Wilmington, a 72 meter tall figure carved into the chalk hill in the 16th or 17th century.

Peak District Old Stones Way

Get started Rowsley
FinisH Youlgreave
Distance 8 miles (shorten to 1¾ miles from Birchover and walk there and back, either to Hermit’s Cave and Robin Hood’s Stride or the Nine Ladies)

The entire length of this Neolithic walk is just over 40 miles, but this top section contains some real highlights, ending at a handy YHA youth hostel at Youlgreave, housed in a former Co-op village a few miles outside Bakewell. There are no Christian saints here; instead it is littered with cairns or standing stones of prehistoric chieftains. These include the circle of stones called the Nine Ladies (in local lore they are women who danced on Sundays and were turned into millstones); a giant tor known as Hermit’s Cave, home to a 13th-century carved cross; and a beautiful rock formation called Robin Hood’s Stride – perfect for scrambling and feeling the cool limestone beneath your fingers, and which film buffs may recognize from the 1987 film The Princess Bride – all looking out towards distant Minninglow, a tomb with rooms numbering in the thousands years ago. years to pre-Christianity and wheelbarrow bowls topped with a crown of beech trees.

Avebury Day Pilgrimage

Get started/finish Avebury National Trust car park
Distance 11 miles

Most people who have visited Stonehenge have flocked to Avebury because of the unfenced prehistoric stone circle. But few have taken a full day to linger and really get a sense of the depth of history in this landscape. Taking one of the oldest footpaths in the area, the Ridgeway, you can first enter the ancient oval Shrine – once marked by wooden posts thought to be a gathering place and gateway to the Avebury stones. From there you can pay your respects at West Kennet Long Barrow, the site of 50 burials dating back almost 6,000 years. Pass the source of the River Kennet – where overhanging trees are often covered in “clouties”, or strips of ribbon, and the 4,500-year-old Silbury Hill, before visiting the Longstones, which align with the winter solstice. Finish with the trees that are said to have inspired Tolkien to create his tree-like creatures, the Ents, in Lord of the Rings. Are you going with children? Wandering through Avebury is a pilgrimage in itself.

North Wales Pilgrim’s Way

Get started Tŷ Coch Inn, Morfa Nefyn
Finish Y Gegin Fawr, Aberdaron
Distance 15½ miles (start at Porthor to shorten)

Officially launched in 2015, the North Wales Pilgrims Way follows the route taken by medieval pilgrims in the sixth century. Their target was Bardsey Island, also known as the Island of 20,000 Saints (those buried there were virtually guaranteed their ascension to sainthood), although remains have been found that predate Christianity by 700 years. The weather often prevents the journey there from the Llŷn Peninsula, but this section, from an inn accessible only on foot, to the Big Kitchen – once used by pilgrims and where coffee is still served today – makes for a perfect outing. It’s a heady mix of rugged sandy beaches, tiny hamlets, crumbling cliffs and the whistling sands of Porthor (which squeaks as you walk on them due to the molecular composition of the grains), before crossing farmlands and rivers and finally gaining sight of the island .

Pilgrimage to Brecon Cathedral, Powys

Get started/finish Brecon Cathedral
Distance 4½ miles (two route options)

Since it starts and ends at a cathedral cafe (aptly called Pilgrims Tearooms), you might think this is a walk only for people of faith. Yet the two routes created last year as part of the Visit Wales Year of Trails include much more than just religious hotspots. The lower level Llanddew loop mainly follows water from an old well and along the River Honddu to a market town. Higher Pen y Crug encompasses the River Usk and the Iron Age hillfort at the top of the hill from which it takes its name – from there there are breathtaking views of the Bannau Brycheiniog (formerly known as the Brecon Beacons) and the Black Mountains reward a pilgrim’s efforts.

Saint Ninian‘s Cave Pilgrimage, Dumfries and Galloway

Get started St Ninian’s Chapel, Isle of Whithorn
Finish St Ninian’s cave
Distance 5½ miles (one way); cave only from Kisdale, 2 miles

The Isle of Whithorn village is home to the ruins of the chapel of the fourth-century Saint Ninian, who is said to have converted many Celts and southern Picts to Christianity. In the 12th century, pilgrims arrived by water and rested before continuing to Whithorn and its priory, in honor of the saint of the same name. Green signs marked “Kernpad 356” (a coastal network set up by the municipality) lead you along sea cliffs to the cave where the saint is said to seek solitude. The names on the map are ominous – Rock of Providence, Devil’s Footsteps – and this coastline is also where the infamous final burning effigies scene of the 1973 classic The Wicker Man was filmed. Look for birds, especially cormorants, perched above the turquoise water and see multiple caves once used by smugglers until you reach Port Castle Bay and St Ninian’s Cave, where 18 medieval stone crosses were discovered.

Iona of the East, Fife

Get started North Queensferry station
Finish Aberdour station
Distance 8 miles (2½ miles if using the train at Inverkeithing)

Marked as the longer Fife Coastal Path, this walk passes through a part of Scotland that would have been teeming with pilgrims in the heyday of ecclesiastical travel. So much so that Queen Margaret, later canonized, built a ferry there in the 11th century to take people across the water (hence the name Queensferry) so they could reach the famous St Andrews further along the coast. The walk takes in the many bays and coves, as well as tree-lined paths and the fishing village of Aberdour with its 13th century castle (believed to be one of Scotland’s oldest surviving examples), and offering views of Inchcolm, also called Iona . from the East, where you can visit the ruins of a 12th-century abbey. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is the proliferation of beaches along the way for a refreshing dip in open water, surrounded by petrels and seals.

Phoebe Smith’s new book Wayfarer: Love, Loss and Life on Britain’s Ancient Paths (HarperNorth) is available now. To buy a copy for £14.95, go to Guardianbookshop.com

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