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In the steps of St Patrick

15 May 2015

DURING his visit to the diocese of Down & Dromore for the celebration of St Patrick's Day, the Archbishop of Canterbury launched the new St Patrick's Camino, meeting the inaugural walkers setting off on the first part of what will eventually be a 600km pilgrimage across Ireland.

The Archbishop, together with his host, the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, and a large number of pilgrims, then walked the two miles from Saul Church, on the site of St Patrick's first church, to Down Cathedral, at Downpatrick, where St Patrick is believed to be buried (above, right). It was the traditional start to the St Patrick's Day celebrations. Archbishop Welby then preached at the festival service before joining the congregation for the traditional lunch of Irish stew and apple pie.

The Camino is a tourism initiative, and is intended, the Irish tourist office says, to replicate the appeal of the Camino in Spain. The first phase of the pilgrimage, from Saul to Downpatrick, includes a three-day walk through the Mournes and the Cooley Mountains to Carlingford Lough, with a boat over the Lough.

Later this year, the route will be extended via the Boyne Valley to Tara, and next year via the Royal Canal to its destination at Croagh Patrick, the saint's holy mountain. The route will eventually connect 12 counties, including both the east coast and the Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast.

As with the Spanish Camino, tourists and pilgrims are expected to complete the full route over the years, and will receive a stamped St Patrick's Camino passport as evidence of their achievement.

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