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Exploring Celtic Spirituality – Pilgrimage to Scotland and Northern England, 2012

Led by:
William G. Edwards, M. Div., D. Min
Sheryl L. Shenk, M. Div.
Jonathan D. Shenk, MD

Dates of pilgrimage:
May 11 – 23, 2012


May 11, 2012, DAY 1, Friday - Depart Washington Dulles Airport on KLM Airlines for our trans-Atlantic flight into Amsterdam where we transfer to our flight into Glasgow, Scotland. Dinner on board the aircraft. M

May 12, DAY 2, Sat. - Upon arrival in Glasgow, we clear immigration, meet our driver and guide, board our coach and begin our journey to Iona. We drive through the beautiful Scottish countryside to Oban where we board the ferry (about a 45 minute ride) to the Isle of Mull. Our bus will take us 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 (5 -10 minutes) to Iona, our home for the next three nights. Iona has been called the entry way of Christianity into Scotland and Northern England. Time permitting, we meet at the Abbey for evening prayers before dinner. This evening we enjoy a “welcome to Scotland” dinner. Overnight Iona. D

May 13, DAY 3, Sun. - Today we begin our exploration of the enchanting Island of Iona. Iona is the preeminent site “in Scotland.” 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 sensed the nearness of the Holy throughout the ages. We gather for morning worship service at Iona Abbey. In the afternoon and evening, our group leaders will introduce us to Celtic Christianity and provide an overview of the island and how we will spend our time here for the next several days. We will be invited to enter into the rhythm of morning and evening prayers at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

May 14, DAY 4, Mon. - After breakfast we visit 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, including that of Macbeth’s victim, Duncan. We continue to Nunnery Church and Church of St. Ronan for morning prayers and singing. The rest of the day will be a combination of free time and continuing our introduction to Celtic Christianity and spirituality by the group leaders. We meet at St. Martin’s Cross in front of the Abbey and embark on a challenging Pilgrimage Walk of Iona. St. Martin’s Cross, dating to the 8th century, is the finest High Cross in Scotland and is decorated on one side with the serpent-and-boss and on the other with Holy figures. Today’s expedition around the island will be somewhat challenging. We will be visiting places of both historic and religious significance. The walk is optional and, for those who do go on the walk, good hiking shoes and rain gear is a must. For the remainder of the day, there will be time to explore the several shops unique to Iona or spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. We attend evening services at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

May 15, DAY 5, Tues. - Morning prayers and reflection before saying “goodbye” to Iona as we board the ferry back to the mainland. From Oban we travel north stopping at Fort William, nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis, it is Scotland’s highest mountain. We continue to the Isle of Skye by way of the road bridge. We travel the southwest loop as we view the stunning mountain scenery and thatched cottages. We visit Dunvegan Castle, home of the MacLeod Clan for over 700 years, and the ruins of a chapel associated with St. Columba at Skeabost before continuing to the lovely town of Portree. Time permitting, there will be some free time to browse the interesting shops and galleries where local treasures can be found before transferring to our hotel. Overnight Portree Isle of Skye. B

May 16, DAY 6, Wed. - After breakfast we travel the north east road to Armadale Castle Gardens and the Museum of the Isles. We continue on through the Highlands along the western bank of Loch Ness to the Benedictine Abbey at Fort Augustus before arriving in Inverness for overnight. B

May 17, DAY 7, Thurs. - We depart Inverness for a spectacular drive through the Cairngorm Mountains stopping at Insh Church, closely related to Iona and built on a site sacred to the Druids, it has been used for Christian worship since the 7th century. We see the Celtic Bell, believed to have healing powers, and the hollow stone, thought to have been used by St. Adaman, Abbot of Iona, for baptisms. We continue to the Highland Folk Museum, an 80 acre living history open-air museum with reconstructed buildings, a 1700’s township, working farm and interpretation of the aspects of Highland life from the 1700’s onward. This afternoon we visit the village of Dunkeld, home of the monks from Iona who were driven here by the Norsemen. The monks brought with them the relics of St. Cuthbert to establish a shrine. We continue to Perth to visit St John’s Kirk where John Knox delivered a sermon on 11th May 1559 that served to launch the Reformation in Scotland. Overnight Perth. B

May 18, DAY 8, Fri. - We depart for Durham and enjoy a walking tour of Durham the religious connections between Durham and Lindisfarne are historically significant. We 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 enjoy evensong at the Cathedral. Pending confirmation we meet with the Rev. Canon Stephen Cherry of Durham Cathedral seeking how modern day pilgrims can connect with early Celtic saints living as “barefoot disciples”. Dinner in Durham then on to Lindisfarne for overnight. BD

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

May 19, DAY 9, Sat. - Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, has been inhabited since the Iron Age and Christianity was brought to the island by St. Aidan when he established a monastery here in AD 635. St. Aidan came from Iona where he was a monk in the monastery founded there by St. Columba. We visit Lindisfarne Priory, Lindisfarne Castle and have time for reflection and prayer in this quiet, holy place. Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

May 20, DAY 10, Sun. - A Retreat Day beginning with morning worship at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, St. Aidan’s Roman Catholic or the Reformed Church. Pending confirmation, we meet with the Rev. Ray Simpson, founding guardian of the Open Gate Retreat House, author on Celtic Spirituality and founder of the Community of St. Aidan and Hilda. Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

May 21, DAY 11, Mon. - This morning we meet with a member of the Community of Aidan and Hilda who will discuss various aspects of the history of the island and the northern saints and then will lead the group across the sands and mud flats, walking the ancient route via the pilgrim posts. Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

May 22, DAY 12, Tues. - Today we travel north to explore the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. We visit Edinburgh Castle and St. Giles Cathedral. We drive along the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the queen when she is in Scotland. We tour the castle and visit the royal gardens. If you prefer to have free time in Edinburgh there will be a drop off point for those that would like to explore on your own. There will be some free time this afternoon for shopping or further explorations and our guide will help us find our way. Overnight Edinburgh. B

May 23, DAY 13, Wed. - A very early morning departure for the Edinburgh Airport where we board our KLM Airlines flight to Amsterdam, there we transfer to our KLM Airlines flight back to the Washington Dulles Airport.