Pilgrims’ progress is the modern day path to prosperity in North Wales

A new trail for modern day pilgrims is a path to prosperity for North Wales.

The 150-mile North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, which takes 10 to 11 days to complete, is already attracting religious and non-religious tourists from far and wide.

It starts at Basingwerk Abbey, near Holywell, in Flintshire, and ends on Bardsey Island, off the Llŷn Peninsula.

The idea is being backed by all the local authorities in North Wales, ancient monuments organisation Cadw and Tourism Partnership North Wales.

According to Tourism Partnership, who are responsible for the strategic development of the visitor economy, walking holidays are a key part of their strategy.

Walking is one of the most popular physical activities in the UK, with 44.5 per cent of adults regularly enjoying a walk of more than two miles.

Dewi Davies, the Regional Strategy Director of Tourism Partnership, said: “The Pilglrims’ Way is an important element of our strategy to see North Wales as one of the top five destinations in the UK.

“We can only achieve this aim by providing the visitors with an outstanding experience that is enriching or inspirational.

“We set about developing new trails and the Welsh Government has led the way with the creation of the Wales Coast Path.

“Not all the walkers we get now are pilgrims but people who are not religious will be enriched by our heritage and culture – and often go back with a concept of spiritual life.

“If the route to salvation does not appeal to today’s walkers, the trail still offers excellent walking and breathtaking views.

“The North Wales Pilgrims’ Way will be certainly be inspirational and is another great reason to visit the region.”

At Basingwerk Abbey a 3D model has been developed so that visitors will be able to examine details of St Winefride’s Well on a mobile ‘phone.

Computer experts are looking  at making a 3D model of St Cybi’s Well near Pwllheli for visitors to be able to interpret the site using a mobile phone.

At Penrallt near Pwllheli, campsite owners are investigating whether to set up pilgrim pods for overnight stays for walkers.

At Llangernyw in Conwy the church is examining whether its old school can be put to community use, including a hostel for pilgrims.

Talks are to be held with a Trewlawnyd landowner who is considering whether to provide land for pilgrim’s accommodation.

The Archdeacon of St Asaph, the Venerable Christopher Potter, who, with his wife Jenny helped devise the route after being inspired by a pilgrimage to Spain, is planning to walk the Pilgrim’s Way starting out on July 1 at 1pm from Basingwerk Abbey, near Holywell.

He said: “The West Highland Way which has evolved over a long period of time, has got all kinds of accommodation including hikers’ pods and bunk houses.

“Long term we would love to have this kind of variety of accommodation across North Wales and want to encourage landowners and caravan site owners to think about setting up one night stop-overs.

“Penrallt coastal camp site near Pwllheli are considering the idea of pilgrim pods and I am meeting with a landowner on Tuesday who has land near Trelawnyd and is interested in researching the possibilities. What we need is evidence that people would make use of such accommodation.

“The Yew tree in St Digain’s churchyard in Llangernyw is reputed to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old and is believed to be the oldest living thing in Britain. The church owns the old school and is looking into the possibilities of refurbishing it for future multi functional uses including a pilgrim’s hostel. Of course the village also has facilities like the pub which make it an ideal location.

“The idea of a pilgrimage is not simply a long distance walking path but something which dips into local communities where pilgrims can find rest and hospitality where they can be assured they will be refreshed. It is not about the destination but about the journey.”

“Walkers can download a Landranger smart app to their mobile and see the whole route of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way. The technology which is available is fantastic. At some sites it will be possible to use your mobile to present an overlay to show what some derelict sites may have looked like.”

Karen Padmore, chief executive at Bangor’s Centre for Applied Special Technology, works with the committee developing the route.

The Imagina Atlantica project, involving seven partners from four countries exposed to the Atlantic – Wales, France, Spain and Portugal  – is exploring ways of promoting new image technologies and the digital promotion of heritage.

As part of that project Karen’s team has produced a model of St Winefride’s Well using scanned data provided by CADW which can be looked at on a smartphone. It produces a 3D model
which you can zoom into.

“Other sites we are going to look at include Bangor Cathedral and St Cybi’s well near Pwllheli. Unlike St Winefride’s this site does not have the same architectural interest so we thought we could produce an image of the saint to appear on the smartphone like an apparition accompanied perhaps by appropriate music and poetry and the story behind the well.”

Peter Hewlett of Walking North Wales said: “I like that it is a serious walk, it is a real pilgrimage which re-introduces a more challenging aspect, it is a credible walk and very well chosen.

“It will be good for bringing visitors into North Wales, particularly if we can develop an economic route.”

For more information go to: www.pilgrims-way-north-wales.org

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