The Whithorn Way: Exploring the journey along one of Scotland's most ancient trails

  • Follow the journey along the Whithorn Way in this special episode of Border Life

It's one of Scotland's most ancient trails that links its bustling urban centre to the picturesque southern shores - the Whithorn Way runs around 143 miles from Glasgow to the Isle of Whithorn.

It replicates the route that pilgrims would have taken to pay homage to a fifth century saint called Ninian, who's said to have been the country's first christian missionary.

He landed in Galloway bringing with him not only religion, but culture and language that would shape the history of the nation.

What was his church in Whithorn is now all but gone.

The grand structure of Glasgow Cathedral dedicated to the cities patron saint Mungo is a classic example of a historic pilgrimage church. Credit: ITV

The grand structure of Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to the cities patron saint Mungo, is a classic example of a historic pilgrimage church, and makes an ideal start point for the Whithorn Way.

Explaining why pilgrims would make such a long journey, Glen Collie - the session clerk at the cathedral - said: "If you consider coming from the brilliance of the light outside into the building which itself is fairly dark, you start experiencing the drama.

"There will be chanting and song sung and little services going on in the chapel all over the building.

"There would be reputedly a piece of the holy cross that would be displayed in a small casket.

"Some would be available for the pilgrim to see and some would require a small fee to be paid to help the coffers of the treasury of the Cathedral itself."

One of the major attractions on the Whithorn Way is a life size reconstruction of an Iron Age roundhouse.

The Iron Age Roundhouse. Credit: ITV

Julia Muir Watt, who authored the guide book of the Whithorn Way, said: "It opened the lid on an older Scotland.

"Once you are aware of pilgrimage and pilgrimage routes you see all of the place names and the things that are associated with them.

"That would be the bridges, the settlements that were once very important pilgrims, so it is like peeling away layers and seeing medieval Scotland.

"We are very much aware that there are more people doing it - that is partly because we get enquiries for the guide book and we meet people who have arrived on a bicycle or on foot at the Whithorn Trust then they reveal that they have done the whole thing.

"There definitely are people who walk it for religious reasons but there are some people who have it on their bucket list and it marks an occasion for them."

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