Working with Pilgrim Paths Ireland, Journeying and Guided Pilgrimage, and Pembrokeshire and Wexford County Councils and National Parks
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.
By the end of July 2023, we delivered the project successfully, including the following:
Pilgrimage Route connecting Wexford and Pembrokeshire – the route has been fully created. It is fully implemented in Pembrokeshire, but awaits some safety adjustments and Sport Ireland accreditation in Wexford. Full route information is available with a safety disclaimer in the meantime and pilgrims are able to walk the route either self-guided or as part of an organised journey.
2 full time Pilgrimage Officers to deliver on the ground activity – we hired two local individuals to deliver the programme with support from the wider team.
Community Engagement programme – this consisted of a mixture of set events such as talks, embedding the project in the local community with participation at third party events and of course guided pilgrimages. In addition there was a lot of informal engagement work, consisting of visiting key individuals along the route, bringing stakeholders together, organising creative spaces or even dinners. This informal work, though less obvious as formal advertised events, was instrumental to secure good will in the long term. We also carried out a survey to assess community response to our branding options.
Pilgrimage Symposium this was a joint effort with Ancient Connections and other partners, bringing together 150 delegates made up of local authorities, businesses, artists, institutions and other individuals.
Endorsement programme – covering Accommodation provision including establishing a marketplace and vetting process, baggage transfer and host training – our Pilgrim Host endorsement process allowed us to vet accommodation for pilgrim needs without replicating existing vetting schemes. The website offers accommodation options for each stage – Pilgrim Host, or Pilgrim Host Plus. We also list other non-endorsed accommodation to ensure full coverage along the route.
The endorsement programme also includes Pilgrim Friendly for other service providers such as transport, guides, food and drink, baggage transfer etc. Baggage transfer is provided in Pembrokeshire, but this work has paused in Wexford pending the SI accreditation of the route.
The scheme includes a range of training materials to train businesses and their staff, including a handbook, training video, and quiz. Qualifying businesses receive preferential placement on our website where relevant, as well as certificates and window stickers to demonstrate their endorsement to pilgrims.
Establish a Sanctuary programme – three locations in Pembrokeshire will be ready to offer low-cost Sanctuary accommodation from 2024. The programme was paused in Wexford pending SI accreditation and final confirmation of the route.
Develop and launch digital assets including a new website, Outdoor Active for app-style access, and comprehensive route content – wexfordpembrokeshirepilgrimway.org was launched, offering everything pilgrims need to inspire and enable them to make the pilgrimage. Outdoor Active walking app offers a further layer of wayfinding functionality, layered with enhancing content such as readings, songs, and local voices. We have a comprehensive resource library of content including photos, audio, stories and interpretation, much of which has populated the digital assets but the remainder will also be used going forward to promote the route.
Waymarking – The Pembrokeshire route is waymarked where it diverts from the Coast path. Waymarking in Wexford is due to be completed pending the safety adjustments and SI accreditation. Wayfinding is fully available via the online assets.
Marketing – In house marketing with our 60,000 strong audience took place throughout the lifespan of the project across all consortium member’s platforms. The creation and launch of the website saw activity funnelled through these channels. A range of digital assets, created as part of the wider Ancient Connections project complemented materials created by the team and will be used in the long term.
The media launch took place earlier this year (see list of links below).
Cross-border integration We have brought together institutions and individuals involved in culture and heritage through the shared narrative of the pilgrimage. From sharing stories, celebrating local identity and the cross-pollinisation of ideas, this has resulted in creative output, new relationships and ongoing collaborations. Our endorsement scheme has created a network of businesses (accommodation, food & drink and other service providers) on an ongoing basis.
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 further accommodation providers, hospitality businesses, transport providers and local tour operators and guides.
We are excited about all the possibilities this project will bring to everyone involved, and to generations of future pilgrims.