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Exploring Celtic Spirituality – A Pilgrimage to Scotland and Northern England, 2016

Led by:
Sheryl L. Shenk, spiritual director
Ted Swartz, playwright/actor

May 6 - 19, 2016


DAY 1, Friday, May 6, 2016 - Depart Washington Dulles Airport for our trans-Atlantic flight into?? where we transfer to our flight into Glasgow, Scotland. Dinner on board the aircraft. M

DAY 2, Saturday, May 7, 2016 – Upon arrival in Glasgow, we clear immigration, meet our coach driver and travel through the beautiful Scottish countryside to the western seaport town Oban where we board the ferry (about a 45 minute ride) to the Isle of Mull. Our bus will take us on an hour’s ride from Craignure across the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands, Mull, through the moorlands to Fionnphort where we will board another ferry for a short ride (10 minutes) to Iona, our home for the next five nights. Iona has been called the entry way of Christianity into Scotland and Northern England. We will check in at St. Columba’s Hotel where we will have dinner and, time permitting, meet at the Iona Abbey for 9 pm evening prayers. Overnight Iona. D

DAY 3: Sunday, May 8, 2016 - Today we begin our exploration of the enchanting Island of Iona. Iona is the preeminent historical site for Celtic Christianity. A monastery was established by St. Columba in the 6th century and he died here in 597. The island is a true “thin space” where pilgrims have prayed and worshipped and sensed the nearness of the Holy throughout the ages. After breakfast at St. Columba's Hotel, we will attend morning worship at Iona Abbey at 10:30 AM. Following services, we will walk to the Chapter House where we will participate in the introductory session “What is the Iona Community?” The Iona Community is an ecumenical Christian community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. In the afternoon, our leaders, Sheryl and Ted, will hold a group orientation/ get acquainted session and introduce us to Celtic Christianity, providing an overview of the Island and how we will structure our time while staying here. There will be time over the next several days to explore the Iona Community Shoppe, a bookstore offering resources by Wild Goose publications as well as other museums and shops or meander and enjoy the natural beauty of this isle. Each morning and evening at 9 am and 9 pm, were invited to join in community worship at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona.BD

DAY 4: Monday, May 9, 2016 - After breakfast and morning prayers at the Abbey, we begin our day of exploration with various options provided by our pilgrimage leaders. We may choose to meet as a group at St. Oran’s Chapel, built in the 11th century. Surrounding the chapel is the Reilig Odhrain, the sacred burial ground which is said to contain the graves of 48 Scottish kings. We have the option to see some of the Celtic crosses, including St. Martin’s Cross dating to the 8th century. St. Martin’s Cross is the finest of Iona’s Celtic crosses and is decorated on one side with the serpent-and-boss and on the other with Holy figures. Today is an open day to wander. Some considerations: hike Dun I, Iona’s highest point with an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BC to 200 AD, explore a shore covered with lovely Iona rocks, stop at the quaint shops on the island or take time for tea. After evening prayers, we can attend the Village Hall for a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), the village dance get-together held at 10 PM. Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 5: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - After breakfast we make our way to the Abbey for morning prayer. Every Tuesday the Iona Community hosts a pilgrimage walk around the island. This is an all-day event that will be somewhat challenging visiting places of both historic and religious significance. The pilgrimage begins from the Abbey grounds at 10:15 AM and you must dress for all weather and bring sturdy boots. There is also an “On Road” pilgrimage that begins at 12 Noon and returns around 3:30 PM. Or you may choose to have a personal day exploring on your own. We attend evening services at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 6, Wednesday, May 11, 2016 – We have one more free day to explore on our own. We may visit the Nunnery, the Church of St. Ronan, the Abbey, and St. Martin’s Cross .This day, or if the weather seems preferable on Monday, we can enjoy an optional boat ride to visit Staffa and see the natural basalt beauty of Fingal’s Cave where Felix Mendelssohn in 1829 conjured up the sounds and sights of Scotland, composing his famous piece “The Hebrides Overture”, also known as “Fingal’s Cave”. We attend evening services at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 7, Thursday, May 12, 2016 – We say “goodbye” to Iona as we board the ferry back to the mainland and meet our coach driver. We continue on a day’s journey crossing the border into Northern England to reach our destination Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, the cradle of Christianity for England. This island, which has been inhabited since the Iron Age, will be our destination for the next four nights.

Christianity was brought to the Holy Island by St. Aidan when he established a monastery here in AD 635. St.AidancamefromIonawhere he was a monk in the monastery founded there by St. Columba. Over the next several days, we will have time to visit the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre where a facsimile and interactive turning pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels is housed. The original Lindisfarne Gospels are located in the British Library in London. Other sites include the ruins of the Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle. Our lodging will be at Open Gate Retreat House and Lindisfarne Hotel. Dinner and overnight Lindisfarne. BD

Note that access to and from the island is via a causeway and therefore governed by low tides.

DAY 8, Friday, May 13, 2016 – This morning we plan to meet with Graham Booth, a member of the Community of Aidan and Hilda who will provide an introduction to Holy Island and the northern saints, including a village walk if weather is favorable from 10 am to noon. Graham is Chair of the Trustees for the Community of Aidan and Hilda and runs the Open Gate Retreat House where some of our pilgrims will be lodging. The Open Gate Retreat House is the Mother House of the Community. There will be free time to explore the isle in the afternoon. Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

DAY 9, Saturday May 14, 2016 –For those who desire, in the afternoon, a group of us will board a bus to cross the causeway and meet with Graham Booth who will lead us on a pilgrimage walk across the sands and mud flats, walking the ancient route via the pilgrim posts. The rest of the day we may choose to stroll the island or visit local shops or heritage sites, see the Cuthbert Center, walk to Cuthbert’s Isle, or stop at the Lindisfarne Scriptorium. We may meet with Mary Fleeson, owner of the scriptorium, who will offer to those interested an opportunity to create Celtic knots. Hopefully, we can meet in the evening with Canon Kate Tristam, a wonderful Anglican scholar and storyteller. Dinner and Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

DAY 10, Sunday, May 15, 2016 - Gather for morning worship at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. This afternoon we plan to meet an hour with Graham Booth on the topic of “Meeting God in Creation” followed by an afternoon walk led by naturalist Mary Gunn who will lead our group on a nature tour of the island discovering bird, plant and wildlife of Lindisfarne.

Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

DAY 11, Monday, May 16, 2016 - This morning we say “goodbye” to Lindisfarne as we travel south to Seahouses where we board a boat to the Inner Farne Bird Sanctuary. We cruise around all of the Farne Islands, viewing the sea birds on the cliff faces and visiting the Grey Seal colonies. This is nesting season for the puffin birds and artic terns and we will have opportunity to step on the island and view these birds in their habitat. In the year 678 Inner Farne was home to St. Cuthbert. After 12 years as Prior of Lindisfarne St. Cuthbert retired to Inner Farne until he became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 684. He returned to Inner Farne when his health deteriorated and died there on March 20, 687. Travel to Durham for dinner and overnight. BD

DAY 12, Tuesday, May 17, 2016 – This morning we will have time to meander the streets of Durham on our own. In the afternoon around 2 pm, we will visit Durham Cathedral, a Norman architectural masterpiece. Cuthbert’s body was brought here during the Viking raids of 995. We will see the delicate and intricate stonework in the Shrine of St. Cuthbert and the simple tomb of the Venerable Bede, the scholar and saint whose body was brought here in 1020. We will have a unique opportunity to meet with the Rev Canon Rosalind Brown, one of the Canons of the Cathedral, for a half hour’s presentation on current Anglican worship in the Cathedral, including praying the whole of the Psalms each month during morning and evening prayers. We will attend Evensong at the Cathedral, followed by a special clergy-led spiritual pilgrimage through the Cathedral. Dinner and overnight Durham. BD

DAY 13, Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - Today we travel to Whitby where we visit Whitby Abbey, founded by St. Hilda in AD 657. Caedmon, the first identifiable poet of the English language, was a monk here. The Abbey was the site of the Synod of Whitby where the Roman and Celtic churches met for the first time to discuss their differences in their respective traditions. We spend the rest of the day strolling the lovely small cobblestone streets and stay overnight in this charming lovely seaport town. Dinner and overnight in Whitby. BD

DAY 14, Thursday, May 19, 2016 – Departing in the morning, we board the coach and travel to Manchester where we will have our closing retreat time together including a farewell dinner, and time for sharing reflections and experiences from our pilgrimage. Overnight Manchester. BD

Day 15, Friday, May 20, 2016 - Travel to Manchester Airport where we board our flight back to the Washington Dulles Airport.