Written by Marilyn Gardner, CSJ Scotland

 Launch of Northern Pilgrims’ Way, Tain, Ross-shire.

I on Thy path, O God. Thou, O God, in my steps. (Celtic Tradition)


On May 29th, two CSJ members, Philip Ward and Marilyn Gardner, attended the socially distanced launch of a ‘new’ pilgrimage route. The Northern Pilgrims’ Way links Tain to Orkney in braided routes of between 182 – 194 kms (113 – 120 miles).

The way was dedicated by the Most Reverend Mark Strange, the Episcopal Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness assisted by Rev James Currall of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, Tain.  A broad range of ecclesiastical support was given by the attendance of Fr Domenico Zanre, representing the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen; Rev and Mrs Fothergill, the Church of Scotland Minister of Tain and Deacon Kenneth and Mrs Bromage representing St Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Tain. The MSP Maree Todd was there as were both Lords Lieutenant of Ross-shire and Sutherland and two local councillors, one of whom, Karl Rosie, is Chair of the Northern Pilgrims’ Way Steering Group. Mrs Jane Coll, secretary of the Steering Group was there too, dressed as a mediaeval pilgrim.

After the service of dedication we were sent out with candles lighted and a cockle shell.  (A nod to the Worcester Pilgrim who was excavated during Rev Strange’s time in Worcester Cathedral). The event was recorded and is available on https://youtu.be/rpR4MWAgtQA.

Tain is the old pilgrim destination of St Duthac (d.1065), much visited by Scottish royalty between 1493 and 1513. It has a museum, ‘Tain through Time’ and the Pilgrimage Visitor Centre which as many interesting artefacts and articles relating to pilgrimage both to Tain and more generally.

The Route itself goes through prehistoric and mediaeval landscapes, skirts the North Sea with spectacular views, passes brochs and distilleries and ends with the ferry from Gill’s Bay to St Margaret’s Hope on Orkney. From Tain, it goes via Dornoch, Helmsdale and a choice of Berriedale and Dunbeath on the coast or Forsinard inland. The coastal route continues through Wick and Keiss to John o’ Groats and Gills Bay. The inland routes swing through Dalnawillan, Loch More and Mybster or Altnabreac to Mybster and then on to Gills Bay. There are good rail links to most of the route but weather is unpredictable and mobile phone and GPS reception is patchy.

A very clear and well illustrated guide book is available (£5) from the web site www.northernpilgrimsway.co.uk which has accommodation details and links to associated walks. Annual membership of the society is £10.

Two further dedications are planned for 3 July in Thurso and 20 August in Kirkwall.