The Way of St Andrews + GPX

Scotland's Finest has selected 4 out of the 8 pilgrim routes that make up the "Way of St Andrews".

For information about the project and about the pilgrim routes that are not featured on Scotland's Finest

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Records go back as far as the 10th century of kings and princes coming to St Andrews as pilgrims to pray at the shrine which housed the relics of the saint.

By the early 12th century, the existing town was struggling to cope with the increasing numbers.

Alexander I of Scotland started the building of a great new cathedral complex approached by four main streets from the west. This cathedral, dominated by the tower to St Rule, became one of the largest buildings in Europe.

Alexander's successor, King David I of Scotland, continued to back the rebuilding of St Andrews and, furthermore, promised royal protection to pilgrims.  Numbers steadily increased, mainly from two routes. From the south-east, pilgrims arrived mainly from the continent at North Berwick where they took the ferry to the south coast of Fife arriving at Earlsferry. They travelled the last 15 miles on foot to St Andrews along a track the width of “a donkey with two panniers”. From the south, pilgrims arrived at modern South Queensferry and were ferried across the Firth of Forth before proceeding to St Andrews, a journey of around fifty miles.

Pilgrimage began to fall off as wars wracked Scotland and, even more so, with the coming of the Scottish Reformation. In 1559, the Protestant reformer John Knox preached a sermon in St Andrews, urging the pillage and destruction of the cathedral. The relics were removed to safety, but the interior of the cathedral was sacked, and the building was abandoned, to be replaced by a parish church, ending the tradition of pilgrimage. The cathedral was allowed to fall into ruin, and much of its stone was removed for use elsewhere in the proceeding years.

The Way of St Andrews has seen renewed interest, with a recent revival campaign led by lay volunteers from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.