St Aidan's Way: The highlights, Co. Wexford, Ireland
28th April-3rd May 2024
£1175 in single ensuite rooms
Follow in the sixth century footsteps of St Aidan as he travelled through Co. Wexford, from Ferns to Our Lady's Island on his way to meet St David of Wales. We have slightly adapted the 95km pilgrimage route, to allow more time to explore the places of special interest along the route and walk the parts that are most scenic, quiet and enjoyable. The maximum walking day will be about 10 kilometres. The walking is on quiet roads, woodland tracks and along the beach. Our journeying is supported by Elaine and Phil our wonderful Irish hosts, who will bring their music, their singing and their choir to make this holiday a truly magical experience.
We will visit holy wells, grottos to Our Lady, storytelling houses, castles, a re-creation of a Celtic monastery, a beautiful mountain with panoramic views and long sandy beaches before reaching our destination of Our Lady's Island. This is the oldest Marian pilgrimage site in Ireland going right back to the fifth century and beyond, as this landscape was also sacred to the druids long before the arrival of Christianity. On the way we will sample legendary Irish hospitality with music and storytelling and we will meet a host of fascinating people who live and work along the Way for an experience of a lifetime.
St Aidan's Way is the Irish stage of the Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way and we will be teaming up with our good friends at Waterford Camino Tours to create a special pilgrim experience. We also have a second holiday on the Wales side of pilgrim way from Fishguard to St Davids that follows directly on from May 3rd if you want to complete the whole way on both sides of the Irish Sea, or come back next year if your time is limited.
Walks and Excursions
Monday 29th April: Ferns to Oulart
Ferns is the ancient capital of Leinster and this is where St. Aidan established his monastery after returning from his studies in Wales under St David. We start the pilgrimage at St Mogue's Well where we take a bottle of holy water to our destination at Our Lady's Island. Then we head for Oulart Hill and the magnificent passage-tomb monument at Tsulach a'tSolais, pausing on the way to view a 'fairy fort' and Celtic cross. We end the day at the Story Teller's House where a local guide will share stories and some local history with us as we drink tea and eat cake prepared just for us.
(The day is about 7km of easy walking)
Tuesday 30th April: an experience of a Celtic monastic settlement and walk on Forth Mountain
We start the day with a visit and moment of reflection at St. David's Holy Well. St David regularly visited St Aidan in Ferns and this holy well is named after him, the Patron Saint of Wales. From there we move on to the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig, for a guided tour of the beautiful recreation of a Celtic monastic settlement including a Celtic high cross and church. The afternoon is spent walking along woodland trails up Forth Mountain. Here we will have our picnic lunch and enjoy panoramic views from Carrigfoyle Rock and see the plains below heading south to Our Lady's Island. On the way home we end up at Oylgate where Raphael's Healing Gardens provides a place for pilgrims to stop and consider their reasons for coming on the pilgrimage.
(The day is about 10km of easy walking with some slight inclines)
Wednesday 1st May: A contemplative beach walk.
Beginning at Raven Wood Nature Reserve, we walk through the beautiful woodland, never far from the sound of the sea close by. This day is an immersive experience of nature and the perfect place for walking prayerfully, stopping for reflection and a picnic. We emerge out of the forest onto Curracloe beach to experience a different type of landscape, with the option of returning on foot to our accommodation if you would like a longer walk. (The day is about 8km of easy walking)
Thursday 2nd May: Johnstown Castle to Our Lady's Island
This day begins with a tour of Johnstown Castle, that is home to the Irish Agricultural Museum, where we discover more on the importance of bees which were also central to the story of St Aidan and St David. We will then walk towards the sacred landscape of Our Lady's Island. The island was connected to the mainland in Norman times and is a brackish lagoon that is home to thousands of seabirds and to Ireland's oldest centre of pilgrimage dedicated to Our Lady. In a fitting end to the day we process around the island, like thousands of pilgrims before us stopping at stations and at the holy well where we return the holy water collected from St Mogue's Well in Ferns to complete this cycle of holy water in this beautiful Celtic 'thin place." We complete our walk of pilgrimage in the final short walk to the sea shore, where we can spend a little time of reflection and thanksgiving for the journey we have completed. It is perhaps also an opportunity to allow and accept the journey that lies ahead and the invitation it offers.
In the evening we will be treated to a special night of Taizé music performed by members of the Island of Ireland Peace Choir.
(The day is about 8km of easy walking)
Friday 3rd May: A walk of gratitude and thanksgiving
On our final day we will have a leisurely breakfast and then share prayers and reflections on the beautiful beach outside Ballyvaloo. Our final walk together will be a time of thanksgiving and honouring our journeying together and the fellowship and friendship we have shared. After a blessing, we will say goodbye and begin our journeys home or across the water into Pembrokeshire, for those who wish to continue St Aidan's Journey and walk the pilgrimage route in Wales along St David's Way.
We will be staying full-board in the beautiful Ballyvaloo Retreat Centre near Blackwater. The centre has comfortable single (or small double) ensuite rooms, located on along sandy beach overlooking the Irish Sea - the perfect place to unwind after the day's walking. We will use our minibus to take us the start point and pick us up at the finish point each day, so you don't need to pack and unpack your bags each day.
Please arrive at the Ballyvalloo Retreat Centre in time for dinner at 6pm on 28th April. If you are driving there is plenty of parking. The Eircode (Postcode) is Y21 X392. If you are coming from the UK as a foot passenger on the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare we will be at the Rosslare Europort at 4.30pm to give you a lift to Ballyvaloo. (Ferry tickets are not included in the price of the holiday. A return fare for a footpassenger is around £80).
If you are flying into Dublin, catch the airport bus to Connolly Train Station and then take the train to Gorey. Please try to be at Gorey around 3pm and we will be there to meet you.