To be a pilgrim…

Our own pilgrimage – England’s Nazareth

The shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk is the most popular Catholic shrine in Britain, and has been a place of pilgrimage for nearly a thousand years.

UK-Events-Livesimply-parish-pilgrimage-walk_layout-medium (A4)As we walk this journey of faith we may choose to walk with those who face poverty and injustice. A pilgrimage is both a personal and a public act of faith. It is also an opportunity to put our faith into action as an expression of compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves, and we may invite our friends and family to accompany our act of solidarity by sponsoring us for the physical and spiritual challenge we seek.

Walsingham, in the North of the diocese, has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times. Although the original Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, founded in 1061, was destroyed at the Reformation, the Slipper Chapel, a 14th century wayside pilgrim chapel, has been restored and the pilgrimage to Walsingham began again. A national centre has been established and many thousands of people continue to visit the Shrine as pilgrims.

Be a sponsored pilgrim and raise funds for people living in severe poverty.

Taking on a pilgrimage is a challenge and something we should all do in our lifetime. As well as going on a spiritual journey, asking people to sponsor every mile you walk will help to raise much needed funds to tackle poverty and injustice. Whether you are walking on your own or with other people, you can share your reflections and show solidarity with our brother and sisters around the world by taking part in a CAFOD Pilgrimage.

Here are some of the official pilgrims trails to Walsingham:

1) From London to Walsingham – entering the diocese of East Anglia south of Cambridge.Pilgrim Route to Walsingham from London (with CAFOD contacts)

The full route is 157 miles. From Sawston to Walsingham the route is over 80 miles.

2) From Ely to Walsingham

Pilgrim Route to Walsingham from Ely (with CAFOD contacts)The route along the Walsingham Way from Ely is 72 miles.

3) From Kings Lynn to Walsingham – walking across the old parish

Pilgrim Route to Walsingham from Kings Lynn (with CAFOD contacts)The route from Kings Lynn to Walsingham is 35 miles – a long day’s walk.

4) From Bury St Edmunds along St Edmund’s Way

Pilgrim Route to Walsingham via Brandon from Bury St Edmunds along St Edmund's Way (with CAFOD contacts)Joining the Walsingham Way at Brandon. This stretch along St Edmund’s Way is around 25 miles.

Note: the green churches represent a parish along the route with CAFOD volunteers.

Where will you start your pilgrimage?

If you’d like to organise your own walk or pilgrimage for CAFOD, we can help!

Please get in touch with us for advice and resources. To start walking for CAFOD, please complete our online enquiry form, email or call 020 7095 5329.


Why be a pilgrim?

A pilgrimage is a symbol in action. It represents the journey of the Christian life from earth to heaven. The Church is sometimes described as a pilgrim people.

Back in the Middle Ages pilgrimages were very popular. It was not like going on holiday. Pilgrimages often took years. Journeys were long and dangerous and many died on the way. They usually travelled in groups and would stay in monasteries or hostels.

Pilgrims undertook these journeys to holy places because it was important for their faith. If they had committed sins they believed that by going on a pilgrimage they could show God how sorry they were. Sometimes they were sent on such journeys by a priest as a penance. Sometimes they went for healing of a physical condition.

Many significant occasions have been celebrated at Walsingham, including the Pilgrimage of Catholic Youth (1938), the Cross Carrying Pilgrimages (since 1948), and the Crowning of Our Lady (Marian year 1954 and 1988). On 22 May 1982, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to Pope John Paul II at the Wembley Mass and given a place of honour during his British visit. In 2000, a new Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham was approved by the hierarchy, and is celebrated on 24 September. The Roman Catholic Shrine at Walsingham has an active calendar of events through the year.

The Latin Mass Society has put together a documentary showing their annual pilgrimage to Walsingham.


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