However, a recently introduced initiative means Irish people need no longer journey abroad for a memorable pilgrim experience.
The initiative, this August, links five of Ireland’s foremost spiritual trails under a ‘passport’ project. Pilgrims remaining in Ireland now have an opportunity to explore captivating scenery on a long mystical hike or on a series of shorter outings over the summer.
To meet the requirements set by the ‘passport’, those taking part must produce evidence of having completed 120km on five of the country’s spiritual trails.
When all the paths have been completed in line with local custom and the required passport stamps obtained, completers are then entitled to claim a Teastas (accomplishment certificate) from Ballintubber Abbey in Co Mayo.
All the routes are fully way-marked and designed for safe completion by solo walkers or independent groups. Experience on pilgrim paths worldwide shows, however, that many participants have a preference for the security and camaraderie of a led walk.
The volunteer groups associated with the Irish spiritual journeys have now come together with a guided pilgrim walk taking place from August 18 to 25.
The routes to be completed are: St Finbarr’s Path, Co Cork, August 18-19; Cnoc na dTobar, Co Kerry, August 20; Cosán na Naomh, Co Kerry, August 21; St Kevin’s Way, Co Wicklow, August 23; and Tóchar Phádraig, Co Mayo, August 25.
Cork guide David Ross believes pilgrimage should be an exercise in sharing.
“When a pilgrim group sets out on St Finbarr’s Path, they are just a collection of individuals from across the world,” he said.
“The experience inevitably draws them together, however, for pilgrimage is a great leveller — everybody faces the same challenge, the same distance. Soon the trappings of status and the 21st century fall away as others become just fellow pilgrims and friends sharing a common challenge.”
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