St Duthac’s Way – 97 miles – 9 days – Aberdeen to St Andrews. St Duthac was one of Scotland’s patron saints, an C11th holy man who became a saint for warriors and a favourite of the Scottish Kings. After many years of being buried, his body was found to be incorrupt; i.e. it hadn’t rotted, a sure sign of holiness! His pilgrimage starts in the ‘silver city’ of Aberdeen and takes you down to the coast and the sprawling ruins of Dunnottar Castle perched high above the North Sea. The castle was a scene of many desperate actions and host to famous Scots like William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots. Further south you arrive at Montrose, once a busy port exporting skins, salmon, wheat and barley. Montrose was also where the romantic hero ‘The Great Montrose’ was born, who met a grisly end and was probably the favourite of novelist Sir Walter Scott.
Then along country roads and the coast through unspoiled villages past lava flows and lime kilns to the red ruins of Arbroath Abbey. Look across to the terrible threat to mariners, the Inchcape Rock, then, keeping along the coast, a sometimes precipitous path takes you to busy Dundee. Cross the silvery Tay and you are now in the Kingdom of Fife. After a few miles you will suddenly see in the distance the ancient city of St Andrews. And soon you will be walking amid the towering ruins of the giant cathedral consecrated in the presence of Scotland’s greatest king, Robert the Bruce, 600 years ago.
Sublime coastal walking
Great introduction to Scotland’s history of saints and battles
Striking Dunnottar Castle and surrounding cliffs
Arbroath Abbey, once the richest in Scotland
Holy Places mentioned in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: St Andrews
NB The above route 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. 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 in Tain in the 14th-15th centuries. The peak of the shrine’s popularity as a place of pilgrimage came around 1500 with the repeated visits of King James IV. 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.
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