Researchers trace medieval pilgrimage route in Scotland

St Ninian's Chapel, Whithorn, Scotland

A report released earlier this month has revealed the ways medieval pilgrims would travel to the one of Scotland’s most holiest sites.

St Ninian's Chapel, Whithorn, Scotland

Whithorn, which lies on Scotland’s southwest coast, was home to a monastery since the eight century and is the earliest recorded Christian community in Scotland. It also contains a shrine to St Ninian. From the early Middle Ages to the Scottish Reformation, Whithorn would attract pilgrims from throughout Scotland and beyond.

The Whithorn Pilgrimage: A Report, was written by Catriona Macmillan, a research associate with the University of Glasgow’s Solway Centre. She was able to make use of Ordinance Survey references to spot the locations of abbeys and chapels that offered hospitality, holy wells and other places of significance.

She explains, “This has been a fascinating project to work on. The picturesque roads to Whithorn are steeped in history and legend. I hope this report will encourage pilgrims, ramblers and history enthusiasts, be they local or from further afield, to tread these paths and discover some of the region’s most intriguing ancient sites.”

Dr Valentina Bold, Director of the Solway Centre at the University of Glasgow added, “We are delighted to have been able to work with the Whithorn Trust to promote better knowledge of one of Scotland’s most significant early Christian sites and, arguably, in St Ninian, Scotland’s most significant saint. His Miracles show Ninian as very much part of the Whithorn community, anchored in the distinctively rich landscape and culture of Galloway and Scotland.”

Earlier this year, Scottish Parliamentarians began looking at ways to promote Whithorn and its pilgrimage route as a tourist destination. Member of Scottish Parliament Aileen McLeod said, “There will be real benefit for the Royal burgh of Whithorn, for the machars of Galloway and for the whole of the south west of Scotland to be able to benefit from that, and it’s not just for Whithorn, there are also some very historical sites along the route, so it’s a way of raising the profile of, the historical profile, the cultural profile, the economic profile of Whithorn as the cradle of christianity in Scotland.”

Below is a video of Aileen McLeod speaking at the Scottish Parliament on this topic:

Reverend Alex Currie, Chair of the Whithorn Trust added, “The Publication of Catriona’s work comes at a very important moment in time for the Whithorn Trust and indeed, the wider community of Whithorn itself. Ever conscious of the importance of our past, we long to tell our ‘story’ in the present. It is to be hoped that this new work will encourage today’s modern pilgrims to beat a once well-worn path to Whithorn again.”

Click here to visit the Whithorn Trust website

See also this video of one man’s recent pilgrimage to Whithorn:

The Unlikely Pilgrim from Precarious Dave on Vimeo.

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