Adventure Ideas Philosophy Talking Point

To be a Pilgrim?

Camino de Santiago
Written by Stuart Wickes

Talking Point 15: To be a pilgrim?

This week’s Talking Point photos were taken on our 2008 cycle pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I dug them out when a pilgrim slept in our spare room earlier this week.

Castrojeriz Camino de Santiago

Approaching Castrojeriz on the Camino de Santiago

Shortly before the snow fell across Britain, the Warmshowers site delivered us Enzo, a biking Frenchman, on a mission to visit sites associated with the patron saint of his village in Brittany, St Gildas De Rhuys.

According to legend the saint was connected to King Arthur. And he also clearly liked the seaside as he had a hand in founding bays in Wales and Brittany. By the time Enzo reached us, he had followed the trail of his Saint across Wales and was on his way to Dumbarton, the pinnacle of his pilgrimage.

Dumbarton? I thought I’d misheard.

Sunflowers, The Meseta, Camino de Santiago

I doubt Dumbarton looks like this. On the Meseta on the Camino de Santiago.

A pilgrimage to Dumbarton?

“Is that the Dumbarton near Glasgow,” I asked. I thought the only people looking for spirit in Dumbarton were on their way to the off licence. But Enzo put me right. So why this pilgrimage? Was Enzo religious himself?

“No. At first I decided to tour England with an umbrella,” he explained, “but when I was looking for resources about  a sixth century historian I found out about St Gildas and thought it would be curious to follow him to Wales. It gives me a reason to travel and something to think about. And the umbrella helps to keep me dry.”

So what is a pilgrimage?

Enzo’s story got me thinking about the meaning of pilgrimage.  It strikes me that in a way all of our family trips are pilgrimages of a sort; extended journeys to a place we give some personal significance to, journeys with a a clear goal and a theme running through them.

Boys travelling the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a classic spiritual pilgrimage, but you can do a more personal one

To be a pilgrim is not necessarily about being religious or following a spiritual journey; it’s about any journey where you  travel with an attitude of openness to new experiences, encounters and perspectives, where you extract yourself physically and psychologically from the normal routines of life, and give yourself time and space.

I probably wouldn’t choose  Dumbarton, but that’s the point; it’s a personal quest.

Talking Point

If you were to make a personal pilgrimage, where would you head to? And how would you get there?

Join the Conversation

Talking Point is our series of short posts with a point to discuss or debate. We pick a photo or two, post a talking point or two and invite you to join the conversation. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.



About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • I like that idea. Everyone should make a pilgrimage to somewhere meaningful to them, like to place of their ancestry. My ancestry is too easy: all my mom’s relatives are from a single village in Germany and my dad’s relatives all the way back to the 1600s are from a city in Belgium. I’ve been to both.

    • A family history pilgrimage.. that sounds interesting. A really clear and personal theme.. who am I and where do I come from. How interesting that your ancestry is so clearly traced. I don’t think I know mine beyond a couple of generations. Maybe there’s a future trip to be done there for me!

  • That is a tough one – I would love to say someplace in Europe, but I don’t know enough about where I would go.

    So I will have to stick to my homeland and say that I would love to visit all the Western National Parks – Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, etc. I would spend a whole summer driving to each one and spending as much time as I would like at each one – no timelines or agendas.

    • Yes, it’s hard to pick a destination when you don’t know much about it. But maybe where you pick does not matter as much as the journey to get there. An earth/nature pilgrimage around the Western Parks sounds wonderful…

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