St Ninian’s Way – 250 miles – 22 Days – Carlisle to South Queensferry. Inspired by St Ninian, the C4th Christian saint, miracle worker, and possibly the first Christian missionary to Scotland, St Ninian’s Way starts beneath the Gothic towers of C12th Carlisle Cathedral. Then you amble along the coast overlooking the quicksands of the Solway Firth into England, and meander through busy market towns. Picnic by the moat looking up at the double towers of the medieval stronghold of Caerlaverock Castle, favourite of filmmakers. Then start to smell the air of Robert Burns, the national bard and general wild chap, as you enter ancient Dumfries. Down to the coast and over the hills to arrive at the majestic ruins of St Ninian’s Cathedral and its famous shrine of old.
Then Ninian’s chapel appears, nothing grand, just a simple building with no roof founded on seaside rock, but visceral nonetheless. And to increase this primal feel of spirituality, make your way to his cave further along the coast overlooking the Irish Sea. Pure, wild magic. More coast and hill and famous Scottish towns and then inland to Paisley’s ancient abbey and Glasgow. Then some gentle walking along the great canal dug by hand joining east from west, then march like a Roman soldier between the restored wooden forts and bathhouses and along the ditch and rampart of the Antonine Wall, another C12th barrier between Roman Britain and the barbaric north. Stroll the canal again and arrive at that modern marvel of engineering, the Falkirk Wheel, before emerging at South Queensferry and a view of the great three bridges crossing the Forth. Then pick up St Margaret’s Way to St Andrews.
As well as easy coastal and hill walking this route gives Scotland to the pilgrim, from Roman Britain to the days of the Covenanters and bloody persecution, from the genius of Robert Burns to the industrious creativity of our Victorian ancestors and engineering genius today. All along you can find accommodation and pubs with their own beer and culinary specialities of the local region.
For a shorter challenge, try the Whithorn Way, the 150 mile section of the above route from Glasgow Cathedral to the Isle of Whithorn (in reverse direction to St Ninian’s Way).
NB Recently a pilgrim has recommended that pilgrims start St Ninian’s Way at Gretna, but if you want to walk from Carlisle, be aware of the road dangers you are likely to encounter on an average work day.
St Ninian’s wild places of pilgrimage
Multi-layered Scottish heritage – Roman to Victorian
Countless ‘glad to be alive’ moments
Great guidebook for the Whithorn Way
Holy Places along route listed in our book Britain’s Pilgrim Places: Carlisle; Ruthwell; Whithorn; Mochrum; Glasgow; Abercorn.
Carlisle Cathedral Pilgrimage in a Day – Gretna Green to Carlisle Cathedral, 12.5 miles.