With so many people feeling disappointed about cancelled plans to walk their Camino this year, thoughts turn to how to engage with some aspects of Camino spirit and fellowship whilst walking in the UK. For the Devon and Cornwall Regional Group, this meant turning to the ‘pilgrimage in a day’ routes described by The British Pilgrimage Trust.

This found eleven us, suitably broken down into two socially distanced sub-groups, meeting at the church of St Cyr and St Julietta, in Newton St Cyr’s, about 9.5 miles north of Exeter Cathedral, on a pleasant October morning. Having walked the route in advance, I was disappointed that the five churches along the way were all locked, but luck was on our side, as one of the wardens at St Cyr and St Julietta’s happened to be in the grounds, and let us in. Not only did he give us access, he gave freely of his time to tell us about the many paintings and artifacts in the church, for which we were all very grateful.

Freely truly inspired, we set off into the Devon countryside. The low rolling agricultural land was dotted with the sort of thatched villages that don’t seem to have changed for centuries. Long farm lanes through tall, leafy hedges gave way occasionally to gateways with stunning views, and eventually to open fields. As we approached the outskirts of Exeter, the railway line to north Devon came into view, and was duly crossed, as we descended into the Exe Valley. Closer to Exeter, we picked up the scenic canal-side walk, and our first glimpses of the towers of Exeter Cathedral.

Throughout the walk, a true sense of pilgrimage developed as people had time to reflect upon, and discuss, various aspects spiritual and religious life. These solitary reflections and meaningful discussions turned what was a very enjoyable hike into a pilgrimage which did indeed fill some of the void felt by those who had missed their planned Camino this year.

After 9.5 miles our weary but happy band of pilgrims arrived at the beautiful medieval west facade of Exeter Cathedral, and paused to identify the familiar figure of St James high above the door, before entering the cathedral and going to pay our respects at the tiny chapel of St James within.

So, ’Pilgrimage in a day’ comes highly recommended!