Pictures from Scotland and England

Exploring Celtic Spirituality

A Pilgrimage to Scotland & Northern England

Led by:

Sheryl L. Shenk, Spiritual Director
Blue Ridge Ministries, Inc.


Ted Swartz, Playwright/Actor
Ted & Company TheaterWorks

Harrisonburg, VA

May 6 – 19, 2016

Trip map

Sheryl L. Shenk is a spiritual director and founder of Blue Ridge Ministries, an ecumenical organization that offers retreats, seminars and workshops focusing on Christian spiritual formation, discovery, and nurture.  Having co-led three prior Celtic Pilgrimages, she will be guiding the group through times of Celtic morning and/or evening prayers and understanding of Celtic spirituality.  Both she and her husband, Jonathan, are Mennonites with a deep appreciation of Celtic reverence for God, earth, community and the stuff of ordinary life.

Ted Swartz is an actor and playwright and founder of Ted and Company TheatreWorks which uses humor and professional storytelling to talk about issues of faith and social justice.  He is passionate about creating art that provokes both laughter and thought.  On the pilgrimage, Ted will be bringing scriptural texts to life as well as portray the early Celtic saints in their fumbling humanity as they seek to be faithful to Christ.  He has been intrigued by a possible connection between Anabaptist theology, Celtic spirituality and theater and he cannot think of a better trip to explore this connection!

DAY 1: Friday, May 6, 2016 - Depart Washington Dulles Airport on KLM Airlines for our trans-Atlantic flight into Amsterdam where we transfer to our KLM Airlines flight into Glasgow, Scotland.  Dinner on board the aircraft. M

DAY 2: Saturday, May 7, 2016 - Upon arrival in Glasgow, we clear immigration, meet our coach driver and our journey begins as we travel through the beautiful Scottish countryside to the western seaport town of Oban where we board the ferry (about a 45 minute ride) to the Isle of Mull.  We board taxis that will take us on an hour ride from Craignure across the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands, Mull.  We continue through the moorlands to Fionnphort where we board another ferry for a short ride (10 minutes) to Iona, our home for the next five nights.  Iona has been called the entry way of Christianity into Scotland and Northern England.  We will check in at St. Columba’s Hotel where we have dinner and, time permitting, meet at the Iona Abbey for 9 pm evening prayers.  Overnight Iona. D

DAY 3: Sunday, May 8, 2016 - Today we begin our exploration of the enchanting Island of IonaIona is the preeminent historical site for Celtic Christianity.  A monastery was established by St. Columba in the 6th century and he died here in 597.  The island is a true “thin space” where pilgrims have prayed and worshipped and sensed the nearness of the Holy throughout the ages.  After breakfast at St. Columba's Hotel, we will attend morning worship at Iona Abbey at 10:30 am.  Following services, we will walk to the Chapter House where we participate in the introductory session “What is the Iona Community?”  The Iona Community is an ecumenical Christian community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.  In the afternoon, our leaders, Sheryl and Ted, will hold a group orientation/get acquainted session and introduce us to Celtic Christianity.  They will provide an overview of the island and how our time here will be structured.  There will be time over the next several days to explore the Iona Community Shoppe, a bookstore offering resources by Wild Goose Publications as well as other museums and shops.  There will be time to meander and enjoy the natural beauty of this isle.  Each morning and evening at 9 am and 9 pm, we are invited to join in community worship at the Abbey.  Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 4: Monday, May 9, 2016 - We begin with breakfast and morning prayers at the Abbey followed by an open day to wander the island.  Suggestions will be made by the leaders and some options to consider are to meet as a group at St. Oran’s Chapel, built in the 11th century and surrounded by the Reilig Odhrain, the sacred burial ground which is said to contain the graves of 48 Scottish kings.  We have the option to see some of the Celtic crosses including St. Martin’s Cross dating to the 8th century.  St. Martin’s Cross is the finest of Iona’s Celtic crosses and is decorated on one side with the serpent-and-boss and on the other with to Holy figures.  Other considerations are: Hike Dun I, Iona’s highest point with an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BC to 200 AD; explore a shore covered with lovely Iona rocks; stop at the quaint shops on the island or take time for tea.  After evening prayers, we can attend the Village Hall for a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), the village dance get-together held at 10 pm.  Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 5: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - After breakfast we make our way to the Abbey for morning prayers.  Every Tuesday the Iona Community hosts a pilgrimage walk around the island.  This is an all day event that will be physically challenging as we visit places of both historic and religious significance.  The pilgrimage walk begins from the Abbey grounds at 10:15 am and you must dress for all weather and bring sturdy boots.  There is also an “On Road” pilgrimage that begins at 12 noon and returns around 3:30 pm.  You may also choose to have a personal day exploring on your own.  We attend evening services at the Abbey.  Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 6: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - We have one day free to explore on our own.  We may visit the Nunnery, the Church of St. Ronan, the Abbey, or St. Martin’s Cross.  This day, or if the weather seems preferable on Monday, we can enjoy an optional boat ride to visit Staffa and see the natural basalt beauty of Fingal’s Cave where Felix Mendelssohn, in 1829, conjured up the sounds and sights of Scotland, composing his famous piece “The Hebrides Overture”, also known as “Fingal’s Cave”.  We attend evening services at the Abbey.  Dinner and overnight Iona. BD

DAY 7: Thursday, May 12, 2016 - We say “goodbye” to Iona as we board the ferry back to the mainland and meet our coach driver.  We continue on a day’s journey crossing the border into Northern England to reach our destination, Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, the cradle of Christianity for England.  This island, which has been inhabited since the Iron Age, will be our home for the next four nights. Christianity was brought to Holy Island by St. Aidan when he established a monastery here in AD 635.  St. Aidan came from Iona where he was a monk in the monastery founded there by St. Columba.  Over the next several days, we will have time to visit the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre where a facsimile and interactive turning pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels is housed.  The original Lindisfarne Gospels are located in the British Library in London.  Other sites include the ruins of the Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle.  Our lodging will be at Open Gate Retreat House and Lindisfarne Hotel.  Dinner and overnight Lindisfarne. BD

Note: Access to and from Lindisfarne is via a causeway and therefore governed by tides.

DAY 8: Friday, May 13, 2016 - This morning we plan to meet with Graham Booth, a member of the Community of Aidan and Hilda who will provide an introduction to Holy Island and the northern saints and lead us on a village walk, weather permitting, from 10 am to noon.  Graham is Chair of the Trustees for the Community of Aidan and Hilda and runs the Open Gate Retreat House where some of our pilgrims will be lodging.  The Open Gate Retreat House is the Mother House of the Community.  There will be free time to explore the isle in the afternoon.  Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

DAY 9: Saturday, May 14, 2016 - For those who desire, in the afternoon, a group of us will board a bus to cross the causeway and meet with Graham who will lead us on a pilgrimage walk across the sands and mud flats, walking the ancient route via the pilgrim posts.  The rest of the day we may choose to stroll the island or visit local shops or heritage sites, see the Cuthbert Center, walk to Cuthbert’s Isle, or stop at the Lindisfarne Scriptorium.  We may meet with Mary Fleeson, owner of the scriptorium, who will offer, to those interested, an opportunity to create Celtic knots.  Pending confirmation, this evening we will meet with Canon Kate Tristam, a wonderful Anglican scholar and storyteller.  Dinner and overnight Lindisfarne. BD

DAY 10: Sunday, May 15, 2016 - We gather for morning worship at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.  This afternoon we meet for an hour with Graham Booth regarding the topic of “Meeting God in Creation” followed by an afternoon nature tour led by naturalist Mary Gunn to discover the bird, plant and wildlife of Lindisfarne.  Overnight Lindisfarne. BD

Day 11: Monday, May 16, 2016 - This morning we say “goodbye” to Lindisfarne as we travel south to Seahouses where we board a boat to the Inner Farne Bird Sanctuary.  We cruise around all of the Farne Islands, viewing the sea birds on the cliff faces and visiting the Grey Seal colonies.  This is nesting season for the puffin birds and arctic terns and we will have the opportunity to step on the island and view these birds in their habitat.  In the year 678, Inner Farne was home to St. Cuthbert.  After 12 years as Prior of Lindisfarne, St. Cuthbert retired to Inner Farne and stayed there until he became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 684.  He returned to Inner Farne when his health deteriorated and died there on March 20, 687.  We travel to Durham for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 12: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - This morning we will have time to meander the streets of Durham on our own.  In the afternoon around 2 pm, we will visit Durham Cathedral, a Norman architectural masterpiece.  Cuthbert’s body was brought here during the Viking raids of 995.  We will see the delicate and intricate stonework in the Shrine of St. Cuthbert and the simple tomb of the Venerable Bede, the scholar and saint whose body was brought here in 1020.  We will have a unique opportunity to meet with the Rev. Canon Rosalind Brown, one of the Canons of the Cathedral, for a half hour presentation on current Anglican worship in the Cathedral including praying the whole of the Psalms each month during morning and evening prayers.  We will attend Evensong at the Cathedral, followed by a special clergy-led spiritual pilgrimage through the Cathedral.  Dinner and overnight Durham. BD

Day 13: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - Today we travel to Whitby where we visit Whitby Abbey, founded by St. Hilda in AD 657.  Caedmon, the first identifiable poet of the English language, was a monk here.  The Abbey was the site of the Synod of Whitby where the Roman and Celtic churches met for the first time to discuss their respective religions.  We spend some time strolling the lovely small cobblestone streets before continuing to Manchester where we will have our closing retreat time together. Our evening will include a farewell dinner and time for sharing reflections and experiences from our pilgrimage.  Overnight Manchester. BD

Day 14: Thursday, May 19, 2016 - Today we have an early morning departure to the Manchester Airport where we board our KLM Airlines flight to Amsterdam.  There we transfer to our KLM Airlines flight back to the Washington Dulles Airport. BM

Price: $4,159.00.  Air from Washington Dulles Airport.

Pricing does not include airline taxes and fuel surcharges currently at $704.61 per pilgrim and are subject to change until the tickets are issued.  The price is not guaranteed and may change due to the fluctuation of the British Pound and the US dollar.  We make every effort to avoid any increase and will only do so if the value of the dollar falls against the British Pound.  Your pricing was based on the exchange rate of $1.58 to the British Pound. The price may change upon confirmation of the Lindisfarne dinner price.  Single supplement:  $759.00

Tips for the driver and guide ARE included.

A non-refundable deposit of $500.00 per person due with application and copy of passport by September 1, 2015.

Final payment due February 1, 2016

Cancellation Penalties
◊ Until January 31, 2016: $500.00 plus any unrecoverable fees.
◊ February 1, 2016 or later: NO REFUND

Terms and Conditions:
◊ 2. Names as on passport.  If name is incorrect and tickets reissued, $50 fee plus change fees from airline.
◊ 3. $100 deviation fee plus any additional airfare, hotel, tour or admission charges.

Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries provides the following basic travel insurance for you at no additional cost:
◊ Accident and Sickness Medical Expense    $50,000
◊ Common Carrier A D & D                              $25,000
◊ Trip Delay, Missed Connection                       $1,000
◊ Medical Evacuation/Repatriation                $250,000
◊ Baggage/Baggage Delay                        $1,500/$250
◊ Emergency Assistance

It is recommended that you purchase additional coverage. Go to our website and click on Travelex Insurance to read the coverage and rules regarding existing conditions or call 800-228-9792 Location # 09-1983.

Meals: B Breakfast, L Lunch, D Dinner, M Meals on Aircraft

The itinerary is subject to change due to local conditions or at the discretion and direction of the leader or guide.