North Wales Pilgrims Way

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The route of the North Wales Pilgrims Way
Waymarker disc on the North Wales Pilgrims Way

The North Wales Pilgrims Way (Welsh: Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru) is a long-distance walking route in North Wales, running from near Holywell in the east to Bardsey Island (Welsh: Ynys Enlli) in the west. The first half of the trail takes an inland route, with the second half (from Abergwyngregyn onwards) following the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula. It measures 133.9 miles (215 km) in length,[1] and was officially launched at Porth y Swnt, Aberdaron on 10 July 2014.[2]

Development of the trail started in 2011, and its official opening followed a number of alterations to the original route to suit local concerns.[3]

The route, which is marked by waymarker disks, makes use of existing public rights of way, including sections of the Wales Coast Path, and along the way it visits many small stone churches, many dedicated to key Celtic Saints, which can provide shelter and rest along the trail. Whilst, historically, pilgrims would have made their way across North Wales to Bardsey Island, known as the legendary 'Island of 20,000 Saints', the trail is a modern interpretation, and does not necessarily follow old routes.[4]

The Trail is a part of the 'Our Heritage' project, a part of Cadw’s Heritage Tourism Project; this is partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Welsh Government.[2]

Dr. Rowan Williams, a Welsh Anglican bishop, theologian and poet, and former Archbishop of Canterbury, is Patron of the route.[5]

An annual pilgrimage is organised along the full length of the route for a fortnight every May/June,[6][7] and in 2018 the North Wales Pilgrims Way Ultra - a 3-day race - will see runners competing for the North Wales Pilgrims Way Brass Shield.[8]

Historical basis[edit]

Since the 7th Century pilgrims in North Wales have visited four main sites – Holywell, Gwytherin, Clynnog Fawr and Bardsey Island. The first three have associations with two Welsh Saints, namely Saint Winifred and Saint Beuno; the North Wales Pilgrims Way links many of the locations associated with them.

Saint Winifred (or Winefride) (Welsh: Gwenffrewi) was a 7th-century Welsh Christian woman, around whom many historical legends have formed. A healing spring at the traditional site of her decapitation and restoration is now a shrine and pilgrimage site called St Winefride's Well in Holywell, and known as the Lourdes of Wales.

Saint Beuno (sometimes anglicized as 'Bono') was a 7th-century Welsh abbot, confessor, and saint.

Bardsey Island has been an important religious site since Saint Cadfan built a monastery there in 516, and in medieval times it was a major centre of pilgrimage.[9]

The route[edit]

The trail runs from east to west, starting at Basingwerk Abbey (Welsh: Abaty Dinas Basing), a Grade I listed ruined abbey near Holywell, Flintshire, and ends at Aberdaron on the western tip of the Llŷn Peninsula (Welsh: Penrhyn Llŷn) in Gwynedd. From here, a final part of the route, regarded as optional, is the boat trip (weather permitting) from Aberdaron to Bardsey Island; the boat sails from Porth Meudwy, which is 1.2 miles (1.8 km) from Aberdaron by the Coastal Path footpath.

Basingwerk Abbey, the start of the Trail
Aberdaron, the end of the Trail. Y Gegin Fawr (the white building), built in the 13th century for pilgrims, now serves as a tearoom.
The remains of St Mary's Abbey on Bardsey Island

For marketing purposes the Trail is divided into 25 short sections:[10]

  • 1 - Basingwerk Abbey to Pantasaph (3 miles / 4.6 km)
  • 2 - Pantasaph to Maen Achwyfan (Whitford) (3.3 miles / 5.3 km)
  • 3 - Maen Achwgfan to Llanasa (2.7 miles / 4.3 km)
  • 4 - Llanasa to Trelawnyd (2.4 miles / 3.8 km)
  • 5 - Trelawnyd to Tremeirchion (6 miles / 9.6 km)
  • 6 - Tremeirchion to St Asaph (3.5 miles /5.6 km)
  • 7 - St Asaph to Llannefydd (6.3 miles /10.1 km)
  • 8 - Llannefydd to Llansannan (4.5 miles / 7.2 km)
  • 9 - Llansannan to Gwytherin (7.0 miles / 11.3 km)
  • 10 - Gwytherin to Pandy Tudur (3.4 miles / 5.5 km)
  • 11 - Pandy Tudur to Llangernyw (2.5 miles / 4 km)
  • 12 - Llangernyw to Eglwysbach (7.5 miles / 12 km)
  • 13 - Eglwysbach to Rowen (3.5 miles / 6 km)
  • 14 - Rowen to Penmaenmawr Stone Circles (4.4 miles / 7.0 km)
  • 15 - Penmaenmawr Stone Circles to Abergwyngregyn (6.6 miles / 10.6 km)
  • 16 - Abergwyngregyn to Bangor (12.33m / 19.84 km)
  • 17 - Bangor to Llanberis (10.6m / 17.1 km)
  • 18 - Llanberis to Waunfawr (4.5 miles / 7.3 km)
  • 19 - Waunfawr to Penygroes (7.1 miles / 11.5 km)
  • 20 - Penygroes to Clynnog Fawr (6.3 miles / 10.5 km)
  • 21 - Clynnog Fawr to Trefor (4 miles / 6 km)
  • 22 - Trefor to Nefyn (6.3 miles / 9.6 km)
  • 23 - Nefyn to Towyn (Tudweiliog) (6.8 miles / 11 km)
  • 24 - Towyn (Tudweiliog) to Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) (8 miles / 13 km)
  • 25 - Porth Oer to Aberdaron (3.3 miles / 5.4 km)
  • (26 - Boat trip to Bardsey Island)

Pilgrim passport stamps[edit]

A 'Pilgrim Passport' (a souvenir leaflet) can be obtained from the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park Visitor Centre at the start of the route at Basingwerk Abbey, or from other churches visited along the route. A total of 23 churches and other locations passed have available a passport stamp,[11] enabling the walker to 'stamp their passport' as they visit the sites along the way. Each stamp is different, and has been designed by primary school children from schools along the route to reflect the ancient landmarks, sites and legends encountered on the trail. Artist Ruth Thomas worked with Flintshire and Denbighshire schoolchildren to achieve this, whilst artist Eleri Jones worked with schools in Conwy and Gwynedd.[12]

Sacred Doorways Trail[edit]

Marketed alongside the Pilgrims Way in the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire is the 'Sacred Doorways' project (Welsh: Drysau Cysegredig) which features churches and chapels of interest.

The churches involved in the project are:[13]

The front cover of the Sacred Doorways Pilgrims Passport

In the Conwy Valley a Sacred Doorways Trail - a tourism initiative funded through Conwy's Rural Development plan - links together some of the most interesting churches and chapels in that area.[14] These churches also have a Pilgrims Way passport stamp - and there is space on the passport for them - although they are not strictly on the Pilgrims Way Trail.

The Pilgrims Passport claims:

From saints to sinners, princes to pilgrims, and bards to bandits, the Sacred Doorways church and chapel trails guide you through thousands of years of our fascinating history.

The four trails in Conwy are packaged into clusters, and can be undertaken on foot, using public footpaths, or in a car.[15]

The trails comprise:[16]

The 4 trails can be linked together by walking an additional 10 miles / 16 km.

(Note - there is a similarly named 'Sacred Door Trail' - a 200-mile interfaith pilgrimage trail - in south-western Montana).[17]

Maps and guides[edit]

Route maps of the Pilgrims Way can be downloaded from the main website, and the committee has approved a guide book[18] - The Pilgrims Way / Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru by Mike Stevens, published by local publishers Kittiwake Books.

Route maps of the Sacred Doorways trails are available on a downloadable leaflet.[16]


Some churches and chapels on the trail rely on the generosity of volunteers to open and close them daily. Furthermore, churches may not be open during the winter months. If the building is not open, details of where to obtain the key will be available near the church or chapel entrance.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The North Wales Pilgrim's Way is officially launched". Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  3. ^, MKH Computer Services Ltd. - / James Kirby -. "North Wales Pilgrims Way - Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru - LDWA Long Distance Paths". Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Links & Resources from the Small Pilgrim Places Network - breathing spaces on the pilgrim journey". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  8. ^ "North Wales Pilgrims Way Ultra 2018 - Ultrarunning World". 13 May 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  13. ^ "History Points - Sacred Doorways". Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Rural Conwy Sacred Doorways Trail - Visit Llandudno & Conwy". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Sacred Trails - Visit Llandudno & Conwy". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  16. ^ a b [1] Rural Conwy Sacred Trails Leaflet
  17. ^ "Home". The Sacred Door Trail. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Taith Pererin Gogledd Cymru ~ North Wales Pilgrim's Way". Retrieved 9 June 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°17′12″N 3°13′00″W / 53.2867°N 3.2167°W / 53.2867; -3.2167