In search of saints: The Pilgrim Kingdom

For 400 years, St Andrews was one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Medieval Europe. Rich and poor flocked to be near the bones of St Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples. This was considered to be the next best thing to being in the Holy Land and walking in the footsteps of Jesus himself. St Andrews joined ranks in terms of importance with the popular disciple destinations of Rome (St Peter) and Santiago de Compostela (St James the Great).

St Andrews may have been the main attraction, but pilgrims were also drawn to Dunfermline to visit St Margaret’s miraculous shrine within the abbey. A host of other saints were represented by churches, chapels and healing wells along the road to St Andrews. These provided perfect places to pause, as well as important destinations in their own right for local pilgrims.

Pilgrimage made a permanent mark on the landscape of Fife. Many of its roads, bridges and crossing points, including the famous Queen’s Ferry, were created hundreds of years ago to ease the way for the steady stream of pilgrims. Inns, chapels and almshouses were also built to offer the travellers a place to rest, refresh and receive medical help. Providing these facilities was considered an act of piety that helped to smooth the path to Heaven. Pilgrimage changed the face of Fife forever and earned it the nickname of the ‘Pilgrim Kingdom’.

The Fife Pilgrim Way follows one of the routes taken by countless pilgrims to Scotland’s holy hot-spot.