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A Cornish Celtic Way, by Nigel Marns

26 April 2019

Philip Welsh finds much of value in a slightly bulky book for pilgrims

THE book A Cornish Celtic Way is a delightful combination of long-distance footpath guide, introduction to the saints of Cornwall, and invitation to pilgrimage.

Nigel Marns has combined sections of the South West Coast Path, the Saints’ Way, and St Michael’s Way into a 125-mile trail that takes in both coastlines, starting at St Germans and ending splendidly at St Michael’s Mount, not far from the parish where he is Vicar.

For each short stage, he provides clear directions, together with information about the extraordinary saints encountered, and the churches, ruins, and Celtic crosses that are visited. He adds to this imaginatively chosen poems, songs, prayers, verses from scripture, simple actions to connect physically with the journey, and questions to ponder while walking: “When you return from this pilgrimage . . . what will have shifted within you?”

The book also includes some personal thoughts — both serious and light-hearted — from the time when the author first made this journey, “to rediscover God in my life and to ask him what the future might hold”.

This beautifully illustrated volume is a little heavy in the anorak pocket — the equivalent of nine Kit Kats — and its illustrative maps will need supplementing by the Ordnance Survey. Other guides to the component footpaths will provide information about where to eat, sleep, and find public transport.

St Cubert Church, Cubert, in Cornwall, one of the photos, which are by Penny Marns and Roger Hamlin, in A Cornish Celtic Way

A Cornish Celtic Way will be enjoyed by the Christian pilgrim, the ruminative hiker, and those using sections of it for days out. It ends with a good overview of pilgrimage spirituality. Here, Marns takes issue with Stevenson’s maxim that “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive,” but says little about Stevenson’s big claim: “Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be gone upon alone,” or, as Hazlitt put it, “I cannot see the wit of walking and talking at the same time.”

The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London.

A Cornish Celtic Way
Nigel Marns
Saysomething Artbooks £15 incl. p&p*
*available from www.cornishcelticway.co.uk

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