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Pilgrims Progress – Article in The Northern Scot 21/10/16

“Next year’s 1300-mile pilgrimage from France to Pluscarden Abbey took a large step forward this week.  A selected group of people from across the UK were invited to the abbey for discussions about the route the pilgrimage will follow.  The 13-week spiritual expedition will see walkers retrace the steps of the original monks who set up their new home in Moray in the year 1230.  Its aim is to raise funds to rebuild the medieval monastery’s south range.

Its director is former Gordon Highlander David Broadfoot MBE, who said that 70 pilgrims already had signed up for stages of the walk, with many more in the pipeline.  He added: “It was a slow burner for a while but all of a sudden the fire along the fuse line is getting bigger.  People are starting to sit up and take notice of how big this is going to be.”

Wednesday’s event heard from a team of four who have just returned from France looking for the most suitable routes and places to stay.  Former Marine Marty Wilkin, who played a major part in Prince Harry’s walk for wounded veterans, was accompanied on the “reccy” by retired lawyer Robbie Young and by Father Giles and Brother Michael from the abbey.

It is hoped that the walk will become established as a permanent pilgrimage route, attracting visitors to Moray, much as the Santiago de Compostela does to north-west Spain.  H.R.H. Princess Michael of Kent has agreed to be the patron of the Pluscarden Abbey 1230 Pilgrimage.  The walk will set off from Burgundy on June 5 next year, reach its destination in Moray on September 3, and visit many sites of historical and religious significance in between.

Also among those present were Moray’s new tourism chief Laurie Piper, plus representatives from Visit Scotland and the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum.  The guest speaker at the event was Alice Carter who, under her maiden name of Warrender, published An Accidental Jubilee, an account of her recovery from a near fatal traffic accident and the pilgrimage she made by foot from Canterbury to Rome.

Speaking after the event, Mr Broadfoot added: “The secret is not to try to reinvent the wheel.  There was a lot of experience and specialist knowledge in the room and we managed to learn a lot. For instance, we discovered there’s already quite a well-established route leading out from London to Oxford, which we will be able to follow. The important thing is not to be turning round on September 4 and saying ‘we wish we’d known that beforehand’.”

Pluscarden is the only medieval monastery in Britain still being used for its original purpose, and is home to 22 Benedictine monks. Moray council gave outline planning permission earlier this year for the abbey’s restoration. The extension would make the monastic library of 40,000 books available to the public for the first time.”