Northern Cross (pilgrimage)

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Northern Cross is an annual, ecumenical, Christian cross-carrying, walking pilgrimage to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) that takes place at Easter. The pilgrimage was founded in 1976 by walkers from Student Cross seeking a new destination, who led a group of pilgrims on a walk from Penrith (near Carlisle) to Lindisfarne, taking it in turns to carry the Cross. The pilgrimage has grown over the decades and currently consists of up to seven different 'Legs' that start from different areas of the Scotland-England border region leading up to the celebration of the Easter Triduum. The Pilgrimage has been officially ecumenical since its start and welcomes all faiths and those of none, although it has a strong Christian flavour.

The act of the pilgrimage is considered[by whom?] a unique witness to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, as carrying a cross is a very symbolic act, which relives the road to Calvary, and reminds of the importance of Christ, and specifically Easter, both to the pilgrims taking part and those who watch it pass. Pilgrims are hosted along their way by the communities they pass through (Anglican, Catholic, Church of Scotland, Methodist and Baptist) and the walkers join in worship with them along the way. The pilgrimage is open to people of all ages, and all shades of Christianity.[citation needed]

For many, Northern Cross is said to give a chance to get away from the world, a retreat, to top-up their faith, and to share in a small Christian community for the week.[1]

It has been featured in mainstream media[2] on many occasions, notably on BBC Songs of Praise,[3][4] and various journals and daily newspapers.[5][6][7]

All the main legs walk for seven days, over a distance of approximately 70 to 120 miles. There are also usually two other legs: (1) a family group leg, based in one location during Holy Week, and which follows shorter routes suitable for young children and toddlers. and (2) an 'extreme' long distance leg which has in the past walked to Lindisfarne from locations as far distant as Iona, St Ninian's Bay (Dumfries), and St Andrews, over a longer period of up to two weeks. This extreme leg varies in route and method each year. All the participating leg groups meet at the Beal Sands tidal causeway on the morning of Good Friday and celebrate the Easter liturgy together on Lindisfarne over the Easter weekend.

The typical five main legs are known as:

  • Melrose[8] (starts walking from Melrose)
  • Lanark (starts walking from Lanark)
  • Haddington[9] (starts walking from Haddington, south of Edinburgh)
  • Carlisle (starts walking from Carlisle)
  • Bellingham[10](starts walking from the village of Bellingham near Hexham)


  1. ^ 'Franckie', quoted 20.2.2010 in [1]
  2. ^ Scotsman Newspaper, published 31.3.2013 in [accessed 10 April 2014]
  3. ^ BBC Songs of Praise, 18 May 2008 [accessed 23 February 2010]
  4. ^ BC Songs of Praise, 18 May 2008 - programme factsheet [accessed 23 February 2010]
  5. ^ Anglican Reader magazine Summer 2008 [accessed 23 February 2010]
  6. ^ Daily Telegraph 9 April 2009 [2]
  7. ^ Daily Telegraph 20 February 2010 [3]
  8. ^ The Melrose Leg was previously called St Cuthbert's Leg due to the established walking route it follows in part. This was then renamed to Melrose at Easter 2013 [source: NorthernCross organisers, same date].
  9. ^ This Leg was called Dunbar Leg for a couple of years 2014–2015 due to starting from that town. This was then reverted to the Haddington name after Easter 2015 [source: NorthernCross organisers, same date].
  10. ^ The Bellingham Leg was previously called the Northumbrian Leg due to the region it walks through. This was then renamed to Bellingham at Easter 2015 [source: NorthernCross organisers, same date].

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