Do you know the one about the Gobhaun Saor? I inherited both my parents’ love of the spoken word and a hearty walk, and these days I love finding walks which have stories attached; myths of landscape, history and folklore which enrich the journey and activate the soul, as well as the sole! Here are four of my favourite walking tales, with my own ‘morals’, some more serious than others:
Walking is not hard. But sometimes, in that perverse way we have, we choose to make it hard. Or hearty at least. We choose to set out on a blimmin’ long hike, carrying a heavy rucksack, and leaving behind our cosy homes and creature comforts to pit ourselves against the weather and landscape. What follows is some hopefully helpful advice about how to pare it back to the basics, keep it simple and make walking hearty, heart-filled but not hard.
Pilgrimages are just walks. After all, walks have destinations and are deliberate, and they can be extended over many days. And walks can be serious, rich and inspirational. The word pilgrim derives from the Latin ‘peregrinus’ meaning ‘foreigner’ from the words ‘per ager’ meaning ‘through the fields’. A pilgrim is one who comes through the fields, a wanderer from afar, a person on a walk. But aside from the decline of religious faith in the modern world, there are reasons we don’t call ordinary walks pilgrimages. Choosing to label a walk a ‘pilgrimage’ elevates its significance considerably. So what distinguishes a pilgrimage from a walk?