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Following in the footsteps of royalty sees Tain make progress on pilgrimage network plan


By Hector MacKenzie

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Living history enthusiast Derek Stewart followed a route taken by James IV in making a pilgrimage to Tain.
Living history enthusiast Derek Stewart followed a route taken by James IV in making a pilgrimage to Tain.

AN historic Ross-shire community is set to become the focus of a new route that will encourage present-day pilgrims to follow the footsteps of royalty on their own special journeys.

Echoing a growing interest in the revival of ancient pilgrimage routes, Tain is looking to its rich past with a view to an exciting future development which could complement the global success of the North Coast 500.

The royal burgh's role in the newly created Northern Pilgrims Way – linking the medieval shrines of St. Duthac in Tain and St. Magnus in Kirkwall – also ties in neatly with the present 'slow tourism' trend which encourages visitors to take their time and fully absorb the places they travel to.

Those visiting Tain will be following the footsteps of King James IV of Scotland who made at least 18 pilgrimages to the shrine of St Duthac between 1493 and 1513.

Jason Ubych of the acclaimed Tain through Time museum set in The Pilgrimage within the grounds of St Duthus Collegiate Church said: "The museum had the pleasure of hosting the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum meeting at the Royal Hotel in Tain, with a view to setting up a pilgrims route from Tain to Orkney. We also had the pleasure to meet our first pilgrim, Derek Stewart, who was following the route taken many times by James IV in making a pilgrimage to Tain.

"Derek has been on many pilgrimages around Europe, including the famous St James way to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain."

Tain is proud of its rich historical past and could soon be tapping it to promote a pilgrim network.
Tain is proud of its rich historical past and could soon be tapping it to promote a pilgrim network.

The living history enthusiast, who is also a tourist guide, believes a pilgrimage doesn't necessarily have to be a religious or even a spiritual journey but simply something special to the traveller.

The Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum is network of organisations and individuals committed to developing routes for off-road pilgrimage travel across Scotland

The Northern Pilgrims Way will largely avoid roads, following footpaths and tracks suitable for walking and cycling. Much of it will provide the traveller with magnificent coastal scenery.

It is hoped that publicity will attract not only dedicated pilgrims, intent upon travelling the whole way, but will also provide the opportunity for visitors to enjoy walking a section of the route to add interest to their holiday in the area.

The Pilgrimage Church in the centre of Tain will be the focus for the start of the journey. It contains a medieval statue of St. Duthac, preserved by the people of Tain for nearly six centuries. Visitors to the Church are welcome when Tain and District Museum is open, all weekdays from April to October, plus all Saturdays in the summer.

Nick Cooke, secretary of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, said: “SPRF welcomes the inception of a new Steering Group to lead the initial development of a Northern Pilgrims Way walking route between Tain and Spittal, with a future extension on Orkney to connect the historic shrines of St Duthuc at Tain and St Magnus at Kirkwall. This has the potential to bring major benefits to local communities and visiting walkers alike and we will offer every encouragement to help this project become a reality.”


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