St Duthac’s Way

50-100 miles, Scotland

St Duthac’s Way – 97 miles – 6 days – Aberdeen to St Andrews. This forms the second part of an expanded route which starts at Tain (Gaelic: Baile Dubhthaich, ‘Duthac’s town’), the shrine of St Duthac there being another former pilgrimage destination of some importance, hence ‘St Duthac’s Way’.

Who was St Duthac? Although little known today he was once a popular figure to whom many churches and altars were dedicated, particularly in northern and north-eastern Scotland. According to the Breviary of Aberdeen, St Duthac (1000-1065) was a native Scot. Tradition has it that he was educated in Ireland and died in Tain. A chapel was built in his honour and a sanctuary established at Tain in the 13th century, ministered by the Norbertine canons of Fearn Abbey. After many years his body was found to be incorrupt and his relics were translated to a more splendid shrine at the Collegiate Church of St Duthac, built between 1370 and 1458. The peak of the shrine’s popularity as a place of pilgrimage came around 1500 with the repeated visits of King James IV. After the Reformation in 1560 the building became the parish church of Tain. The Collegiate Church is one of the finest medieval buildings in the Highlands, and inside you can see where the shrine of St Duthac would have been. ‘The Pilgrimage’ is a modern visitor centre built in a 17th century schoolhouse in the churchyard. It tells the story of medieval pilgrimage to Tain in two colourful galleries.

The route can be followed in about 6 days by reasonably fit walkers. The 6 daily stages we suggest here are all between centres of habitation and therefore accommodation, but longer or shorter days are of course possible!

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