St Edmund Way

1 week, 2 day, East of England, English Heritage

St Edmund Way – 79 miles, 8 days – Manningtree via Bury St Edmunds to Brandon. This route honours St Edmund, England’s original patron saint before Edward the Confessor first replaced him, and then St George. Edmund was martyred in 870AD by the Danes in battle for not renouncing his faith, tied to a tree, shot with arrows and had his head chopped off, which was then reattached by a speaking wolf. His relics were translated from his unknown site of martyrdom to Bury in the early 900s. King Canute built a stone shrine in 1020, and by 1095, the silver and gold pilgrimage shrine at Bury Abbey was one of the most famous, wealthy and miracle-working in all England. Beyond that, we know little about Edmund.

The route does its best to introduce you to the non-hilly but characterful land that Edmund would have known, by using the River Stour valley path in East Anglia, then in Suffolk passing Bures St Mary, where King Edmund may have been crowned, to Bury St Edmunds, where he was buried, then along the River Lark Valley path to the ancient Icknield Way at West Stow, where there is an astonishing, fully-reconstructed Anglo Saxon village with wooden huts with fires burning inside them. Then it’s the King’s Forest, which is bleak and huge, and just before Thetford is the Barnham Cross, the ancient boundary stone between Suffolk and Norfolk. Thetford’s ruined Priory and Motte and Bailey will impress before you walk the river path alongside the Little Ouse that brings you to the secluded forest well of St Helen, the magical tiny church of Santon Downham and finally Brandon, where the Edmund Way ends.

Highlights
River Stour Valley Path
Bures St Mary, where Edmund was probably crowned
St Edmundsbury Cathedral and ruined Abbey
River Lark Valley Path
West Stow Anglo Saxon Village
Thetford Priory
St Helen’s Forest Well and Santon Downham Church

Holy Places listed in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: Bures; Bury St Edmunds.

2-day Version – Thetford Priory to Bury St Edmunds – 22 miles. This a modified section of the complete route in order to take account of English Heritage sites in Thetford. You begin at Thetford Priory, an important medieval monastery, near the Priory of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, who aided medieval pilgrims to Jerusalem. Next is the medieval stone Barnham Cross that marks the boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk, and along the Icknield Way through the King’s Forest to West Stow, a reconstructed 5th-7th-century Anglo-Saxon village. A succession of four beautiful Suffolk churches follows before you arrive at Bury St Edmunds, with its ruined abbey standing side-by-side with the cathedral, where you can hear its choir sing evensong. (Scroll down to bottom for logistics).

St Edmundsbury Cathedral Pilgrimage in a Day. Click here.

Click to download route/s in GPX file format for your smartphone’s map app

Instructions for using a GPX file to show you the route on your smartphone

Association of English Cathedrals

Thetford Priory

Looking Down from top of Bailey, Thetford

Motte & Bailey, Thetford

Church of Holy Sepulchre, Thetford

Nun’s Bridges, Thetford

Barnham Cross Common

Barnham Cross

Icknield Way

King’s Forest Icknield Way

Lackford Lake Nature Reserve

Anglo Saxon Village West Stow

West Stow Ancient Oak and Church

Culford Lake

St Mary, Culford Church

Countess Cadogan Memorial, Culford Church

River Lark Path

Fornham Flashstone

Fornham St Martin Church

Memorial to Devotion, Fornham St Martin Church

St Saviours Hospital Gate, Bury

Abbeygate

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

St Edmundsbury Cathedral from Abbey Ruins

Magna Carta Inception Memorial, St Edmund Abbey Quire

Norman Tower and Edmundsbury Cathedral

Norman Tower

St Edmundsbury Cathedral Tower

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Logistics for 2-day version from Thetford to Bury
Transport

Train to Thetford, and from Bury St Edmunds. Or bus or taxi to Thetford, if parking car at Bury St Edmunds.

Distance
Thetford to West Stow – 15 miles
West Stow to Bury – 7 miles

Accommodation and Food
West Stow and Culford (on the route), Flempton or Lackford (near the route). If wanting cooked food in the evening (which you don’t have to cook), the Cadogan Arms in Ingham is a 1hr walk from West Stow, or a 30-min walk from Culford.

Terrain
Footpaths, fields and small sections of road.

NB the alternative route via Fornham St Martin, and its splendid Woolpack Inn and Church, involves you walking across a golf course. If there are golfers around please show a pilgrim’s respect.

Songs
If you want to sing a medieval chant dedicated to St Edmund as you go along, here are three:

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