Now that 2022 has dawned, some of our New Year’s resolutions may be to get out more, pull up our hiking boots and experience our wonderful surroundings, either where we live or further afield. But how about a resolution to get to grips with your roots whilst you’re at it?
Pilgrim walking routes have long been a part of heritage and culture in countries all around the world, but an exciting new route to keep an eye out for is being developed, a Wales-Ireland Pilgrimage Walking Route, which will be embracing the Celtic heritage of both regions.
The ongoing five-year project called Rediscovering Ancient Connections is in the works, thanks to Ancient Connections, a cross-border art, tourism and heritage project receiving funding from the European Regional Developmental Fund.
A Brief History of the Wales-Ireland Pilgrimage Walking Route:
This connection has long existed as a result of the stories of St David, the patron saint of Wales, and his protégé, St Aidan of Wexford, who developed a close relationship during the early medieval period. It is thought that St Aidan travelled to Pembrokeshire from Wexford to study under St David, and thus, forming a new, special bond. St Aidan later returned to Wexford, and became strongly associated with Ferns and other sites in the county.
The Wales-Ireland Pilgrimage Walking Route Project:
The project itself explores how the saints and their pilgrimages have shaped their respective landscapes and the identity of each region. The shared heritage explored by Ancient Connections aims to attract new visitors to each country, educate residents, share skills and revive the ancient cultural, historical and religious connections to benefit each coastal community. Most importantly, the project also aims to motivate both communities to embrace and rediscover the shared heritage and history that lies between Wexford, Ireland and Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Recently, Ancient Connections have launched their newest website, documenting the links between Wexford and Pembrokeshire through art, archaeology, events and stories. The website, www.ancientconnections.org, also showcases festivals and events, in which people can rediscover their pasts. A community event is even scheduled for the 19th January organised by Abarta Heritage. The History Hunter Huddle, a social online gathering for people to share their stories, blogs and personal interests and research into local and family history. For more information and to register, click here.
The project will hopefully create sustainable eco-tourism between the regions, especially post-pandemic due to the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry in both the UK and Ireland. The aim is to attract around 5,000 people annually to the route, and increase local business also.
The Wales-Ireland Pilgrimage Walking Route:
Now the primary legacy of the Ancient Connections project, the pilgrimage walk, known now as the Way of Saints David and Aidan (though only a working title), is being managed by a newly formed partnership between The British Pilgrimage Trust and Pilgrim Paths of Ireland, and is also sponsored by Pembrokeshire and Wexford Councils. The route is specifically between St David’s in Pembrokeshire and Ferns in County Wexford. The two routes will be linked via a ferry service across St George’s Channel, connecting the two regions.
The Director of the British Pilgrimage Trust, Guy Hayward, had this to say about the route:
“Coming together and working with all these different partners…who are passionate about forming a pilgrimage connection between Ireland and Wales, is going to lead to the kind of innovation and freshness of approach that is only possible when different cultures come into contact and share their wisdom”.
“We are in the earliest stage of this project, but I can already tell that we are going to create something very beautiful together that bridges both sides of the Celtic Sea, and something which so many will enjoy and find meaning through for generations to come”.
All of the organisations involved in the route aim to inspire visitors from Ireland, the UK and abroad to endeavour on the pilgrimage and have what they would consider to be a life-changing experience by highlighting the rich heritage that both regions have to offer. Find out more about the route at Ancient Connections, and, now that we are slowly returning to ‘normal’ post-pandemic, consider experiencing the incredible heritage that Wales and Ireland have to offer.