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New pilgrim route to link Welsh cathedral to Ferns Abbey, Ireland

21 January 2022


The Rosslare/Fishguard ferry. The crossing is part of the new pilgrimage route, the Way of St Aidan and St David

The Rosslare/Fishguard ferry. The crossing is part of the new pilgrimage route, the Way of St Aidan and St David

A GROUP that has established a series of pilgrimage routes connecting religious sites across Britain is planning its first international route.

The Way of St Aidan and St David, which is being developed by the British Pilgrimage Trust, will link St Davids Cathedral, in Pembrokeshire, with Ferns Abbey, Co. Wexford, in southern Ireland, and will involve pilgrims in a sea crossing between Rosslare and Fishguard.

It will follow a journey taken in the sixth century by St Aidan of Ferns to Wales, where he was one of St David’s most faithful disciples.

“It will become the Camino of Ireland and Wales, connecting the route associated with two great saints of Wales and Ireland near the coastline of both countries,” the Trust’s director, Guy Hayward, said.

“We have joined forces with the national pilgrimage organisation of Ireland: Pilgrim Paths Ireland; and two organisations that organise guided pilgrimages in Wales: Guided Pilgrimage and Journeying. We hope it will become one of Europe’s leading pilgrimage routes, attracting thousands of committed and long-distance pilgrims and walkers within five years.

“This is our first time outside the UK. It’s not normally in our remit, but the opportunity came along, and I tend to go along with the flow.”

They hope to finalise a 90-mile “modern reimagining” of St Aidan of Ferns’s route early next year (2022), and are appointing two full-time pilgrimage officers — one for each side of the Irish Sea — to administer and promote the walk. They will also organise short guided pilgrimages for small groups, and longer events with accommodation, transport, and guides.

There will also be an audio-guided app for pilgrims planning their own journey to download. Walkers can have a “pilgrim passport”, which can be stamped as they complete each section of the route, and will qualify them for a certificate, like that offered on the Camino de Compostela.

St Aidan, also known as St Máedóc, was born in Inisbrefny, in Co. Cavan, in about 550, and as a young man travelled to west Wales, to study under St David. He returned to Ireland in 580, taking with him a gift from the Welsh saint of a hive of bees, which were believed to be rare in Ireland. In Co. Wexford, he became the first Bishop of Ferns, founding 30 churches and several monasteries.

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