Working with Pilgrim Paths Ireland, Journeying and Guided Pilgrimage
We have joined forces with the national pilgrimage organisation of Ireland, Pilgrim Paths Ireland, and two organisations that organise guided pilgrimages in Wales, Guided Pilgrimage and Journeying, to establish the Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way to become one of Europe’s leading pilgrimage routes, attracting thousands of committed and long-distance pilgrims and walkers within five years.
The initial project funding from Ancient Connections ends in 2023 but our involvement will continue long after that. Community engagement and the benefits of pilgrimage for the locals along the route are at the heart of how we will work.
This route will become the Camino of Ireland and Wales – joining Ferns Abbey (connected with St Aidan of Ferns) in County Wexford and St Davids in Pembrokeshire – connecting the route associated with two great saints of Wales and Ireland near the coastline of both countries. These two cross-fertilising cultures will be joined by a ferry crossing and a 140km route. The route is not yet finalised but, broadly-speaking, it will go between Ferns and Rosslare on the Irish side, and Fishguard and St Davids on the Welsh side.
With our proven community engagement model, we will offer these benefits to local communities:
Drive footfall to local businesses and facilities, access a network of pilgrims and helping to sustain and grow the rural economy
Share and celebrate the places that make each village or town special, connect with other communities
Enrich each community; connect with different people who value what you have to offer
Improve wellbeing in community; helping travellers can benefit the mental health of community members, reducing stress, improving mood, self-esteem and happiness.
The new pilgrimage route will bring more visitors to each region and they will need accommodation providers, hospitality businesses, transport providers and local tour operators and guides.
For the more sparsely catered-for rural regions, we will establish our Sanctuary model to provide low-cost accommodation, just like we are doing on the Old Way.
We will be launching a portfolio of pilgrim products to draw together the various strands, in a tried and tested manner proven by the Camino. These will be:
One-Day/Half-Day guided pilgrimages for small groups
One of the BPT’s core offerings, typically with groups of around 20 people being taken on a one day pilgrimage guided by a leader with expert knowledge of the route.
Multi-day guided pilgrimages for small groups
All-inclusive multi-day pilgrimages where we provide all accommodation, transport and guides. A high value offering, typically these are groups of 5-15 pilgrims at a time. We would offer these pilgrimages through our key partners Guided Pilgrimage and Journeying, and promote other third parties offering similar packages.
Pilgrim Paths Ireland follows the ancient Irish tradition of the ‘Pattern Day’, by locally celebrating the feast day of the saints that each of their paths is dedicated to. They also have their Pilgrim Paths Week Festival each Easter and their Irish Pilgrim Journey where all their main paths are walked consecutively. No similar model exists in Wales yet, but we would introduce a ‘Pererin Event’ (name tbc) as a novel approach to pilgrimage with a walking festival at key dates such as the first week in March between St David’s and St Non’s anniversaries.
Self-Guided Pilgrimage Products
Self-guided pilgrims are obviously important to the success of this pilgrim route and we will support them with the following aids:
Guide Book and Maps
Our team has internationally renowned experience in researching, writing, publishing and promoting pilgrimage guidebooks and maps including John G O’Dwyer, Chair of Pilgrim Paths Ireland, and John Brierley, the prolific author of Camino guidebooks and map books who is also acting as our expert adviser to ensure that our guidebook is of the highest quality. Click here for our own Old Way Online Guide.
Online Guide and Audio App
Although physical guidebooks remain used, GPS-enabled online guides are increasingly popular. BPT has pioneered the development of online GPS guides and Google Maps for its 200+ pilgrim routes.
We will develop audio narrative app functionality as part of the project where self-guided pilgrims who download the OutdoorActive app would be able to pop in their ear bud and slip their phone back into their pocket whilst listening to our expert and entertaining narrative as if they had a personal guide with them on the route, telling them where to turn and introducing them to each pilgrim place.
Pilgrim Passport and Completion Certificate
Collecting all the section completion stamps on your pilgrim passport along the 100km route to St Davids will qualify the pilgrim to obtain a Compostela-like certificate from the Ty’r Pererin/Pilgrim House at St Davids Cathedral. Pilgrim Paths Ireland already manages this process in Ireland. As part of our Community Engagement plan we would invite schools in local communities to design a section stamp.
We are excited about all the possibilities this project will bring to everyone involved, and to generations of future pilgrims.