Forth to Farne Pilgrimage Way to launch this Sunday

A new Pilgrimage route travelling through the picturesque coastal scenery between North Berwick and Lindisfarne will be made opened this Sunday in Whitekirk, East Lothian.

The Church of ScotlandThe Cove Harbour near Cockburnspath.

The route is one of five long distance Pilgrim Ways currently under development in Scotland. It will take modern pilgrims through places associated with Christianity's earliest days there.

Ancient Celtic saints identified with places along the route include St Baldred, St Cuthbert, St Aidan and St Ebba.

The 72-mile route follows parts of three well-marked designated footpaths: the John Muir Way, and the Berwickshire and Northumberland coastal paths.

Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, Patron of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum and former Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland, will officially inaugurate the new route at a service in St Mary's Parish Church, Whitekirk on Sunday.

Church of ScotlandPilgrims approach Lindisfarne.

Whitekirk is one of many sites along the route that drew in early pilgrims in the late Middle Ages, according to Rev Joanne Evans-Boiten, Minister of Athelstaneford, Whitekirk and Tyninghame, who initiated plans to develop the new route.

She said: 'Thousands of people came to Whitekirk because of a very famous holy well. That is why we have such a large church in such a small place.

'The story is that Agnes Countess of Dunbar had sustained injuries defending Dunbar castle when it was under siege. She visited a hermit living near Whitekirk and he told her to go to the holy well and drink the water.

'After visiting the well the Countess was healed and she went on to put up a shrine here that became famous throughout Europe. We have a record of the story written by one of the pilgrims who visited here and who later in his life became Pope Pius II.'

She continued:  'After the Reformation people changed their ideas about pilgrimages and holy places so Whitekirk was no longer considered an important place to visit. Sadly we don't now know where the well was. We have looked but so far no one has managed to find it. Maybe it will be rediscovered in the future.'

Nick Cooke, secretary of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum SCIO, praised volunteers' efforts in developing in the Forth to Farne Way over the last three years. 

'The route goes through some very important places with a strong pilgrimage heritage, from Whitekirk itself to Coldingham Priory which was one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in Scotland in its day,' he said.