A new scheme aiming to create a sense of pilgrimage between some of the north of England’s most famous cathedrals is being rolled out in the hope that the “holy magnets” will be treated as more than just tourist attractions.
The British Pilgrimage Trust and the Association of English Cathedrals have collaborated to share a host of walking routes to and from recognisable places of worship in Yorkshire and beyond.
These include the Paulinus Way, a one-week, 65-mile walk from Todmorden to York Minster, and an amble from Fountains Abbey to Ripon Cathedral.
A pilgrimage to Sheffield Cathedral from Upper Wincobank Chapel, taking in the Catholic cathedral, is featured, as well as a route between Halifax Minster and Bradford Cathedral.
There is walk from Dewsbury Minster to Wakefield Cathedral – the first time there has been a pilgrimage route for the latter, organisers say.
The Yorkshire Dales Abbey Way is another option. It is a 136-mile, 13-day trek from Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds to Whitby Abbey, skirting below the national park.
Ramblers can also walk from Beverley Minster to Bridlington Priory.
Dr Guy Hayward, co-founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust, and Nick Mayhew Smith, the Britain’s Holiest Places and Naked Hermit author, have set up the project with each Church of England cathedral.
Dr Hayward said: “This project is about creating a whole new way of engaging with cathedrals for everyone, whether or not they have been into a cathedral before. It turns cathedrals into more than just tourist places by turning tourists into visitors and visitors into pilgrims. And cathedrals are, in some way, holy magnets: they draw you towards them, most obviously in a visual sense as they are often the only thing you can see on the horizon.
“Cathedrals are the ultimate symbols of destination.”
The project ensures there is a pilgrimage route for every Church of England cathedral, taking in established wayfarer routes, other places of faith, “spiritual pathways” and lesser-known walkways.
It pays tribute to a number of cathedral anniversaries taking place next year – from the 850 years since the murder of Thomas Becket, once Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170 – to the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Coventry.
A number of new pilgrimage routes will open that explore County Durham and the North East as the “Christian crossroads of the British Isles”.
Each cathedral will have a route available to its visitors, offering one-day to two-week options, and longer in some cases. Most routes, such as the 35-mile St Alban Pilgrim Way from St Paul’s Cathedral that opened in June, offer “green” public transport options to make them more environmentally sustainable.
The routes include long established destinations such as Salisbury, Winchester, Canterbury, Lichfield, Chester, and Hereford Cathedrals.
Elsewhere, a Liverpool route takes in both the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals.
Routes in Birmingham and Manchester reflect their diverse communities by encountering mosques, synagogues and other holy places along the way. Dr Mayhew Smith said: “A one-day pilgrimage is perfect for people who live locally to approach their cathedral in a new way. All holy places arise from the love and devotion of local people, these are places that bring a community together to celebrate shared values and history.”