The Whithorn Way: 21st Century Scottish Pilgrimage

Bold, V. (2016) The Whithorn Way: 21st Century Scottish Pilgrimage. In: Sacred Journeys: Pilgrimages in the 21st Century 3rd Global Meeting, Prague, Czech Republic, 2-4 May 2016,

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The Whithorn Way ( is a new pilgrimage route in development in Scotland, between Glasgow and Whithorn. It is anchored in medieval traditions of pilgrimages to sites associated with St Ninian, who brought structured Christianity to Scotland through his Candida Casa, dedicated to his teacher, St Martin of Tours, in the fifth century. St Ninian is believed to have converted the southern Picts. He was buried in Whithorn, which rapidly became a key pilgrimage site in Scotland, playing a major role in the construction of a national narrative, with European resonances. Early pilgrims included Alcuin, an envoy of Charlemagne, and Kenneth III of Scotland. The twelfth century Vita S. Ninianiof Alred of Rievaulx drew new attention to the site, building on Bede’s eighth century Historia EcclesiasticaMiraculaNynieEpisco (c.731) and the verse narrative MiraculaNynieEpiscopi, written around fifty years after Bede’s (see McQueen 2005). High profile pilgrims included King Robert the Bruce, seeking a cure from leprosy, and King James IV of Scotland, who made repeated visits to Whithorn, following diverse routes, and with diverse motivations, from thanksgiving to penitence, sometimes with ostentation, and sometimes with modesty. However, the significance of Whithorn has been neglected more recently, although individual pilgrims, and diocesan groups, continue to make this journey as acts of faith. The Way draws on this heritage, as well as more modern experience of pilgrims to Whithorn, including Paisley Abbey’s 850th anniversary pilgrims. This paper, based on field and library-based research conducted in 2014, and connected in a project in development with partners in Latvia, Croatia and Slovenia, will offer an overview of its current and historical significance, as well as its potential for future development, connected to initiatives by the Scottish Pilgrimage Routes Forum (SPRF) and other cognate bodies.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bold, Dr Valentina
Authors: Bold, V.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies

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