The final leg of the journey leaves the pretty village of Ceres and arrives into the centre of St Andrews via an attractive woodland walk. This historic pilgrim destination offers a wide range of places to relax, refresh and explore.
The Waterless Way and the Coal Road have guided travellers to and from Ceres for centuries. For Medieval pilgrims, Ceres was the last overnight stop before St Andrews. Having journeyed on foot across miles of boggy, uneven ground, on constant high alert for robbers or worse, it is worth taking a moment to imagine how the weary travellers may have felt at this point.
The current parish church was built in the 1500s on the site of an earlier church, 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 the tall spires and towers of St Andrews.
‘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.
The popularity of pilgrimage to St Andrews led to the building in the town of one of the largest cathedrals in Europe – 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.
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.