Way of St Hild – St Hilda’s Church, Hartlepool to Whitby Abbey – 47 miles, 5 days. This coastal route is a pilgrimage initiative that has its own smartphone app to bring alive the history around St Hild, faith and spirituality, human life in general 1400 years ago and the landscape and nature. A modern approach to ancient history then, given that the Headland, where you start, is one of the oldest centres of Christianity in England. The Anglo-Saxon monastery of Hartlepool Abbey was founded by St Aidan in 640AD, and St Hild was its second abbess in 647AD. Hild presided here before setting up her double monastery, Whitby Abbey, this route’s destination.
You walk along the coast passing by fishing community Seaton Carew, before heading up the Greatham Creek and its system of ditches, channels and streams, which although industrialised now retains an ancient feel of the tidal mudflat landform that was here before Hild. You cross the Tees using the the epic Transporter Bridge, before heading back out to the coastline and to another fishing community of Saltburn, past a Roman fort and signal station, a Viking village of Skinningrove. The natural seascapes become overwhelmingly beautiful at Staithes and here you get a sense of the natural world that would have inspired Saxon Christians to deep devotion. At Runswick Bay, try to find an ammonite (St Hild’s symbol) for you to keep and carry as a token of good luck to your destination, or back home. Eventually you arrive at Whitby, passing by St Hilda’s Church on the great West Cliff before eventually arriving at Hild’s foundation of Whitby Abbey, where the seagulls still dip their beaks in honour of her.
Crashing coastline paths with salt air
Beautiful fishing villages
Following in Hilda’s own footsteps
Modernising app initiative
Holy Places along route listed in our book Britain’s Pilgrim Places: Hartlepool.