Jim Fogarty takes a look at some of the paths Irish pilgrims walk each year

The upsurge of marathon running and walking in the 1960s cemented a great desire for exercises on roads and laneways which subsequently spilt over twenty years later for the Irish Heritage Council to open “Pilgrim Paths”.

The Heritage Council was established as a statutory body under the Heritage Act, 1995. The Heritage Council recommends that the principles of shared ownership and shared responsibility for our landscape should be reflected in planning legislation which is both inclusive and participatory. Now hundreds do the pilgrim way.

The world’s famous pilgrim route The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) which covers five hundred miles from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain. Here, legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried. It is a favourite walk of the Irish.

One of the great advocates of walking was Father John O’Sullivan, the Jesuit priest who was beatified in May 2017, the first such ceremony in Ireland held in Gardiner Street Jesuit Church, Dublin. In the late 1890’s he walked extensively in Greece, Asia Minor and Macedonia.

While the ancient Irish always had a great reputation for spirituality and pilgrim penitential walks it was not until 2014 that credence and status was given to such walks with Ireland’s first National Pilgrim Paths Day in 2014, thus reviving our general appreciation of Ireland’s medieval Christian heritage.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own