Saints who walked the Fife Pilgrim Way will feature in MAC touring exhibition

Guided walk...in St Andrews disclosed a wealth of pilgrimage heritage which people can discover on the Fife Pilgrim Way, a 64 mile route from Culross and North Queensferry to St Andrews which will open in summer 2019.
Guided walk...in St Andrews disclosed a wealth of pilgrimage heritage which people can discover on the Fife Pilgrim Way, a 64 mile route from Culross and North Queensferry to St Andrews which will open in summer 2019.

The much anticipated 64 mile Fife Pilgrim Way is set to open this summer.

It had been scheduled for spring but Fife Council is waiting on a restoration agreement being signed off.

Community dig...at Inverkeithing Friary. Under the guidance of Northlight Heritage, volunteers discovered evidence of the ancient Friary courtyard.

Community dig...at Inverkeithing Friary. Under the guidance of Northlight Heritage, volunteers discovered evidence of the ancient Friary courtyard.

The path cuts through the St Ninian’s opencast mining site near Kelty and the landowner must sign a contract, allowing the path to fully open.

However, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust – which is leading the project – is now forging ahead with work to complete the route.

And just before Easter, in partnership with the council, it will launch a touring exhibition to enable people across the Kingdom to find out more about the Pilgrim Way and the Saints celebrated along its route.

Ed Heather-Hayes, the project manager, said: “We will be using the council’s award winning MAC bus, a mobile museum and gallery.

Markinch Primary pupils helped to plant 130 metres of native hedging along the Fife Pilgrim Way. Some 145 volunteers from all over Fife contributed �120,000 in free manpower to help establish the route which will open to the public this summer.

Markinch Primary pupils helped to plant 130 metres of native hedging along the Fife Pilgrim Way. Some 145 volunteers from all over Fife contributed �120,000 in free manpower to help establish the route which will open to the public this summer.

“We want to start touring the exhibition just before Easter, taking it to local schools and communities.

“The aim is to let people know more about medieval pilgrimage in Fife, as well as the Fife Pilgrim Way.”

Starting at Culross and North Queensferry, the 64 mile (104km) path takes in spectacular views of the Highlands, coast, Forth and Tay estuaries and the Lomond Hills on its way to St Andrews Cathedral.

The route uses Fife’s existing network of rights of way, paths and tracks to offer varied opportunities for long distance routes, along with shorter and circular walks.

There will be eight gateways – at Culross, North Queensferry, Dunfermline, Lochore Meadows, Kinglassie, Markinch, Ceres and Kennoway.

These will serve as starting and finishing points for those who choose to walk the route in sections.

Several resting points in areas of interest have also been created, using natural resources on site.

Ed explained: “Gateways have resting points, in addition to interpretation panels giving local and historical information and where the route leads next.

“But we also wanted to create resting points in areas where people might need one, such as at the top of a hill.

“We wanted to use natural materials so boulders have been used to create a natural seat. And designs have been etched onto them to give people information about the landscape around them.”

People will also be able to purchase a route map, along with a passport and stamps allowing them to mark off their progress.

The stamps have been created by communities along the Pilgrim Way, which have worked in close partnership with the Trust.

It is hoped people in those communities will also later take ownership of the route.

Ed said: “We have working groups in each community involved in the project.

“They helped design a stamp, representing the medieval heritage in their own communities.

“But we’re also working with volunteers in these communities, training them to survey the path and report any issues.

“Our hope is that they will take ownership of their own section and help us manage the walkway in future.”

Nine bronze discs will be positioned along the way, explaining more about the saints who once walked the same path.

And these will be used to help people source more information on the website.

Ed said: “The stamp designs are depicted on the discs, along with the area’s heritage, flora and fauna.

“The discs are in areas of significant pilgrimage heritage and we hope they can be used as a trail for wee ones but also for people to find out about the history of the route digitally.”

The Fife Pilgrim Way has been discussed for 30 years but the project finally got under way in 2012, when the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum (SPRF) was founded.

Led by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, a steering group was set up to take the project forward, with partners Fife Council, Fife Cultural Trust, Fife Tourism Partnership, Forth Pilgrim, Historic Environment Scotland, SPRF and Fife College getting on board.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund granted £399,000 to the £759,000 project with a number of large grants from landfill and European sources too.

Volunteers contributed £120,000 in free manpower and will also play a key role in the route’s future.

Ed added: “Some 145 volunteers from all over Fife have already been involved.

“We’ve had so much support from communities across Fife, which is exciting for us as we want locals to see it not only as an additional recreation but also an economic driver to bring visitors to Fife.

“If local people take a pride in it, that will be apparent to visitors and improve their experience.”