The final leg of the Fife Pilgrim Way journey is just 9.5miles or 15km leaving the charming village of Ceres and arriving outside St Andrews Cathedral just as medieval pilgrims would have done. Walk a little further, down South Street, to find the final interpretation panel in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, which makes for a special photo opportunity. This ancient town kirk of St Andrews, which has stood on its central site in South Street for over 600 years, has been welcoming pilgrims for many centuries and is well poised to welcome modern-day walkers.
The route leaves Ceres and follows farm tracks and narrow country lanes past farms with names such as Kinninmonth, Ladeddie and Drumcarrow.
As the route nears St Andrews be aware that the road can be busier and there is no pavement. At Craigtoun Country Park the path meanders through the woodlands, so be sure to look out for waymarkers as the park can be busy. This long-distance trail joins the Lade Braes. This is a popular walk following the route of an old mill lade with a history stretching back to the middle ages. The walk is about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long and runs from Little Carron on Hepburn Gardens to Lade Braes Lane at Madras College.
The Waterless Way and the Coal Road guided travellers to and from Ceres for centuries. Ceres was the last overnight stop for medieval pilgrims before St Andrews. Imagine how weary they would have felt after traversing on foot across miles of boggy, uneven ground, on constant high alert for robbers or worse.
The current parish church was built in the 1500s on the site of an earlier church. This is where the pilgrims may have offered prayers or received a blessing for their onward journey. As morning broke, the pilgrims would have regrouped and begun the final leg of their journey, straining their eyes for that first glimpse of St Andrews’ tall spires and towers.
‘In that place (St Andrews) by the touch of the relics, many astounding miracles were worked and are worked to this day … the blind from their mother’s womb received their sight, the dumb were made to speak, the lame to walk, and all who piously bespoke the favour of the apostle, were immediately, by God’s mercy healed from the sickness that possessed them.’ (Excerpt from Chronica Gentis Scotorum, c.1260)
St Andrews was still known by its earlier name, Kinrymont, when it was visited by its earliest recorded pilgrim. An Irish prince called Aed or Aodh died in the town during his pilgrimage there in 967. Its popularity as a pilgrimage destination started to grow in the 11th century, and by the 14th century it was considered a national shrine.
St Andrews’ popularity led to the building in the town of one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. It was 12 metres longer than the one in Santiago de Compostela (take that St James!) This magnificent building, which took over 150 years to build, housed the saint’s sacred shrine and created an awe-inspiring, once in a lifetime experience for its pilgrims.
The town centre was also redesigned in the 1100s, with two broad streets providing the ultimate processional route. With its walls, gates and massive place of worship, St Andrews became Scotland’s answer to Jerusalem. Feast days were celebrated with spectacular processions, feasting and bonfires. By the middle of the 1400s, nearly all the city’s 3,000 inhabitants were involved in some way in supporting the booming business of pilgrimage.
We have created a video of a 1-mile section of the Lade Braes part of the Fife Pilgrim Way, which we believe can be enjoyed by visitors using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Why not watch the video and decide if you would like to try it?
For further information about the Fife Pilgrim Way and the other sites managed by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust visit the resources section of our website. And why not delve into the long-distance route by reading The Story of Fife Pilgrim Kingdom before you set off. If you have enjoyed the Fife Pilgrim Way and would like another long distance walking challenge why not try the Fife Coastal Path?
Our online shop has excellent maps, guide books, gifts and accessories to help you plan and remind you of your walks.