A CHRISTIAN pilgrimage route dating back hundreds of years has gained an official foothold in County Durham.

The walk from Finchale Abbey to Durham Cathedral, and beyond to Escomb Church, south of Bishop Auckland, is now officially recognised as part of the Camino Inglés – the English Way.

The walk forges connections between County Durham and the Camino routes in continental Europe leading to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

A group of walkers including the Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, the Finchale Friends of the Camino, and Liz Fisher from The Auckland Project, walked a section of the route from south to north as a celebratory pilgrimage.

They started at St Peters’ Chapel in Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, with a blessing by the Bishop of Durham, The Right Reverend Paul Butler, to send them on their way.

En route they walked through and visited Byers Green, Whitworth Church, Tudhoe, Sunderland Bridge and St Oswald’s Church, Durham.

On arrival at Dun Cow Lane, a piper and drummer led the pilgrims into the cathedral, where they were welcomed by the Reverend Canon Charlie Allen, before the Evensong service.

Keith Taylor, chairman of The Finchale Friends of the Camino said, “Traditionally pilgrims began from their journey from Durham Cathedral after seeking permission from the Bishop of Durham to go on pilgrimage.

"Saturday was a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the link between Durham Cathedral and Auckland Castle, as we walked along the route of the Camino Inglés, the way followed by many British pilgrims on their journey from Durham to Santiago in Northern Spain.”

Saturday’s participants, and indeed anyone who chooses do sections of the walk in future, taking in Finchale Abbey, Durham Cathedral, Auckland Castle and Escomb, are eligible to receive official Camino stamps in the Camino pilgrim passport, which is also valid in Spain. The distance walked counts towards the 100km required to have officially walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino Inglés routes in Spain start from the northern port cities of A Coruña and Ferrol, and were the routes traditionally taken by pilgrims from Northern Europe, the United Kingdom, Southern Ireland and Northern Europe when travelling to Santiago. The routes were also important for enabling medieval trade.

Liz Fisher, Engagement and Curatorial Director of The Auckland Project said, “The history of the Camino Inglés is rooted right here in County Durham. It is so exciting that The Auckland Project has helped to officially re-establish this historic trail, ensuring that walkers from the region and across the world can enjoy it for generations to come.”

The full route can be found on www.britishpilgrimage.org. Passports can be purchased from the Finchale Friends of the Camino, contactable via their Facebook page, Finchale Durham, a pilgrimage way or from the official Camino website www.santiagodecompostela.me.

Passports can be purchased from the Finchale Friends of the Camino through their Facebook page, Finchale Durhamor from the official Camino website www.santiagodecompostela.me.