What are the Pilgrim Ways?
Nearly 1,500 years ago the first Christian Pilgrims came up the western sea routes, which lead from Mediterranean Europe through Brittany and Cornwall to Pembrokeshire and Ireland. Many of these early saints, usually descendants of the princely families of Brittany, Ireland and Wales, had frequently travelled far and wide, to Rome or Jerusalem in their search for spiritual fulfilment. Settling in north Pembrokeshire, they established religious houses and mission stations within the context of the social structure of west Wales in the 6th century.
The saints of the early church in the west like St David and his contemporaries and successors, founded and gave their names to many of the Pembrokeshire churches.
These saints were revered in their own time; as individuals they were accredited with miraculous powers over men, animals and the powers of evil. Stories of their exploits and achievements remained fresh in the memory even centuries later when they came to be written down. They founded their communities or ‘Clas’ churches, gathering around them converts to the Christian faith, some of whose names are commemorated on the many 5th, 6th and 7th century monuments inscribed with their names in Latin or Ogham script and marked with the sign of the cross.
There is some architectural and archaeological evidence that most of the churches dedicated to these 6th century saints were built prior to the Cymru-Norman settlement of Pembrokeshire. They are small, sunk into the land from which they are a part and breathtakingly simple, inviting peace and contemplation. Many are surrounded by circular enclosures, which themselves may belong to a prehistoric settlement of the region. Over the centuries they have at different times fallen into decay, been rebuilt and modified but this has been a reflection of changing times and social need.
The Saints and Stones trails have been set up to give both holiday visitors and residents in the county access to the deep spiritual qualities of these ancient places of worship, access to some of its more remote and beautiful corners and thereby to bring some small tourist trade to benefit the rural communities.
Full details of the pilgrimages are available using the links below. Leaflets can be found in all churches, some book shops and information centres . A guide book is also available to purchase – click here.
You are most welcome to bring your dogs to the churches where you should find water bowls.