Celtic Way Pilgrimages: Sacred Ireland, Iona, Scotland.
“Just beyond yourself.
It’s where you need to be.”
A poem from The Bell & The Blackbird, David Whyte
To partake in a pilgrimage is to attempt to get just beyond yourself. It is to act on one’s desire to understand, to separate yourself from your life to get where you need to be. For some a pilgrimage is to learn more about themselves, for others it is to understand more about their deity; for others still it is to figure out how to live with the hand life has dealt them.
We often think of a pilgrimage as a gruelling walk across the hot, harsh land, the sun beating down on our backs, our eyes searching the heavens for a glimpse of shade-giving cloud (think the Camino, the famous pilgrimage hundreds of miles long). It is a sacrifice, essentially. Self-sacrifice done to ensure self-growth.
But a pilgrimage doesn’t have to just be for someone looking to walk 15 miles a day for a month. And some people can’t afford to do that in ability or time even if they wanted to. The importance is in why the journey is taken, not the journey itself.
Here’s where we invite you to explore Culture Honey Touring.
It’s probably best to start with the words of Culture Honey’s founder Georgia Sanders, whose passion for these tours is to combine the escape from modern life that a holiday can bring with the opportunity to slow down, go deeper and reflect.
“All pilgrims are on a journey and each life is its own journey. So for each person the reasons they go might differ, but in the heart of it what binds us together is we’re all on a journey.”
To be clear, these small group tours (10-12 guests each) are a pilgrimage. They are an act of removing oneself from everyday life and placing oneself in a spiritual setting where minds and hearts are afforded the time and space to think and rest. But they are also a holiday: a holiday that recharges, that fills you up. A combination of times of learning, quietly walking, slowing down and exploring, as well as the opportunity to experience history, amazing food and drink, and even to kick off your heels and enjoy the local culture and music in the areas that will be visited.
It’s also important to note that “it is by no means limited or required that the quests be religious.” Like Georgia said, we are all on our own journey. The reason for a tour is so that we can journey this path together, whatever our backgrounds, wherever we find ourself in life.
We live in a chaotic and messy world. Life is stressful and unsure. Doubt and anxiety are part of our daily lives. Whoever we are, these tours are designed to help with that (notice I didn’t say fix). They are designed to offer a sense of grounding, a way to step back and reflect on life lived now as well as life lived a long time ago, to reflect on our place as humans.
That’s part of the reason the tours as so small: a maximum of 12 people.
In a nutshell
A bit about the details. Taking place in September of 2021, there are two places to go on these tours: Ireland or Scotland. In Ireland you’ll travel to Dublin where you’ll find yourself in a peaceful nook of a hotel, carved a short walk from the bustling city. You’ll get to spend time in the calm hills of Glendalough, walking the forest and learning about the pilgrims of old who travelled there to follow St. Kevin, the ascetic who lived in the forest. You’ll also get to visit Athlone, Durrow, and so much more – including a few sites to see. This is still part holiday after all.
Michael Rodgers, founder of the Tearmann Spirituality Centre at Glendalough, where you will be visiting if you journey to Ireland, spoke with us a few years ago. He spoke of his view of Christianity, how “you have to struggle to get over yourself, to leave [your] desires for comfort and security behind.” If you can manage that, “then you discover that maybe there is a bigger world that is much more satisfying than [your] little world and looking after poor old me.”
That’s sort of what this tour is all about.
And if you choose Scotland, you’ll find yourself enclosed in the natural beauty of the island of Iona, a small dot along the western coast, tucked innocently within the archipelago that is the Inner Hebrides. You will take part in led prayer walks and have time for reflection and self-discovery. Remember, this is about learning, about seeking to understand. Morning and evening prayers at the Iona Abbey, which played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland, will be part of the routine as well.
“It was at Iona,” said John Philip Newell, the old warden of Iona Abbey in his book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, “that I first became aware of the need to reclaim some of the features of ancient Christianity in the Celtic world as lost treasures for today. Part of that treasure is the much-cherished image of John the Evangelist, also known as John the Beloved, leaning against Jesus at the Last Supper. Celtic tradition holds that by doing this he heard the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the practice of listening – listening deep within ourselves, within one another, and within the body of the earth for the beat of the Sacred Presence.”
And that’s sort of what this tour is all about.
Expanding the human experience
There is more to the human experience, believes Georgia Sanders, than just liking someone’s Instagram post. Is that really the full nature of human expression? But the full nature of human expression is so hard to find in our crazy worlds.
Enter the tours, a place for people who need “true deep rest,” where they can come and just be and then figure out how to bring that home with them. Because we all know that is something which can be very helpful in all our lives.
There is so much more to say, so many little details about each of the tours. But that would spoil your enjoyment. If you want to find out more and see if either of these tours are right for you, check out their website here.