By Sean Ryan - 16 April, 2017
Thousands of people all over the country are currently taking part in National Pilgrim Paths Week, which is running from 11 to 17 April.
Despite a long pilgrim tradition and strong national reputation for spirituality, there was until three years ago relatively little activity on Ireland’s ancient penitential paths, with the country not regarded as an important destination for travel motivated by spirituality.
Ireland’s first National Pilgrim Paths Day was held in 2014, and was aimed at raising awareness of the country’s network of pilgrim routes and providing a more general appreciation of Ireland’s medieval Christian heritage.
Easter Saturday, 19 April 2014, was designated National Pilgrim Paths Day. The event proved a huge success, with almost 1,800 participants taking part at 11 pilgrim path locations across Ireland.
Ireland’s second National Pilgrim Paths Day took place on Easter Saturday, 4 April 2015, with a nationwide series of walks taking place on 13 of the country’s major medieval walkways.
In 2016, the Pilgrim Paths Festival was extended to a week-long celebration for the first time. A National Pilgrim Passport for Ireland was also introduced, with pilgrim walkers who completed 120 km of Ireland’s penitential paths entitled to a Teastas Oilithreachta (completion certificate) from Ballintubber Abbey.
Speaking this week, John G. O’Dwyer, Chairman of Pilgrim Paths Ireland, said that “National Pilgrim Paths Week was created to raise awareness and use of Ireland’s rich inheritance of pilgrim routes.”
He added that “The event is targeted not only at those who enjoy exploring Ireland’s ancient tracks, but also the growing numbers seeking to escape the daily grind of life and take time out to reflect and meditate a little while enjoying the outdoors.” Among the routes included this year are Tóchar Phádraig, Co. Mayo, St Kevin’s Way, Co. Wicklow, Rath/Dysert Pilgrim Path, Co. Clare, St Bridget’s Way, Co. Kildare, Cosán na Naomh, Co. Kerry, St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Path in West Cork and St Declan’s Way from Drimoleague to Gougane Barra.
Details of the walks are available at www.pilgrimpath.ie.