THE region is expected to become a popular destination for pilgrimage following the launch of six new walking routes.

The Northern Saints Trails are based on ancient pilgrimage routes and reflect the journeys of the region’s saints and their connections with the North East.

Positioning North East England as the Christian Crossroads of the British Isles, they are designed to bring the fascinating stories of the region’s saints to life whilst showcasing the best of the area’s landscapes, heritage, attractions and food and drink.

Tourism leaders hope they will also drive domestic day visits and staycations to the region, and appeal to overseas visitors in preparation for the return of inbound tourism.

Ivor Stolliday, chairman of Visit County Durham, said: “Not only do they bring the ancient pilgrimage routes to life for the modern visitor, but the trails will have an extremely positive impact on our visitor economy – enhancing our authentic tourism offer and cementing the North East’s reputation as a destination to make a pilgrimage to, at a time when consumers are searching for new experiences."

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The Northern Saints Trails could also provide vital business support at a time when recovery from the pandemic is ongoing, with over 500 businesses and venues along the routes featured on the Northern Saints Trails website and promoted within marketing activity.

A passport scheme will also drive footfall for participating businesses, encouraging visitors to seek out places in order to collect unique stamps as a record of their visit.

Locations include Durham Cathedral, Great North Museum, Hancock in Newcastle, and Hexham Abbey in Northumberland.

Durham County Councillor Elizabeth Scott, portfolio holder for economy and partnerships, said: “The Northern Saints Trails will play a key role in assisting the visitor economy of County Durham and the wider region to build back better, providing businesses with a new and engaging way to target customers.

“As the county bids to become UK City of Culture 2025, which will also bring benefits to the North East as a whole, the Northern Saints Trails bring our fascinating shared history and heritage to life, enriching the lives of our communities, and creating exciting new cultural activities.”

The routes also recognise the role of Durham Cathedral as a destination for pilgrims for centuries.

The Reverend Canon Charlie Allen, Canon Chancellor, said: “Durham Cathedral came into being as a place in which pilgrims arriving at the Shrine of St Cuthbert were welcomed for prayer and hospitality.

"The six new Northern Saints Trails link contemporary pilgrims to the lives of the Northern Saints - Aidan, Cuthbert, Oswald, Hild and Bede. A warm welcome awaits, and we trust that pilgrims of all faiths and none will rejoice in that which is to be discovered on this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

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The trails are being promoted through the website, along with a dedicated marketing campaign and trails leaflets which have been distributed across the region’s visitor information networks.

Looking ahead to 2030, Visit County Durham will continue to work with partners across North East England to further develop trails which exceed visitor expectations, rivalling some of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe.


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