St Wistan’s Pilgrimage Walk

People are being invited to join together for an extraordinary ‘pilgrimage’ between two communities in honour of a Leicestershire saint.

Join the Guided Group

On Wednesday 1 June, a guide group will officially open the route and set off from the village of Wistow on a four-mile countryside walk to Wigston following the historical route of the martyred Prince Wistan.

It follows the route dedicated to the saint and named after him.

The route is classed as ‘easy to medium’, so families looking for something to do outdoors, for free, can just turn up and do the walk at any time during the day.

A map and way-finder posts will be along the route too.  

Inspired by the BBC2 television programme, ‘Pilgrimage’, where celebrities of differing faiths and beliefs embark on a journey of religious and spiritual awakening in recognition of the life and legacy of an ancient saint. This walk will be following in the footsteps of pilgrims and hearing the legend of the county’s very own saint.

HDC and Churches work together

Harborough District Council and Oadby and Wigston Borough Council are teaming up with local churches to organise the event. All at a time when making connections around meaning and value are more important than ever.

Cllr Phil King, Leader of Harborough District Council, said: “Whatever your beliefs, all are welcome to join this free half-day local walk across beautiful, rural countryside from Wistow, with a rewarding sense of achievement at its end in Wigston.”

Explore the local area

Cllr John Boyce, Leader at Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, said: “This is a great opportunity to get out and explore the local area, reaping the health benefits of a four-mile stroll while also learning the history of the pilgrimage. It’s free to take part and promises to be a hugely enjoyable community day, so please spread the word and get involved.”

Medieval route

Rev Matthew Gough said: “St Wistan’s Pilgrimage is a medieval route which we relaunched in 2018 on his day of commemoration, 1 June. Due to lockdown, this will be the first time that we can walk again in larger numbers.

The popularity of pilgrimage has taken off as it provides a sense of connectedness to the environment, history, community, and spirituality. Prince Wistan of Mercia is a fascinating Leicestershire Saint martyred for his religious convictions and royal connection.

Whether you like walks in beautiful South Leicestershire countryside, Anglo Saxon history or a space to pause with intention, you are welcome to either join the led pilgrimage, or follow the waymarkers throughout the day.”

A ‘pilgrimage’ is a physical journey on foot to visit a place considered special or where a pivotal event in history took place, often with spiritual meaning or connection.

Will we see human hair?

Legend recounts human hairs growing through the grass and beams of light seen on 1 June, when Prince Wistan, who was set to become King, was murdered in 849 by his jealous cousin. The walk follows and respects the historical route the body of the martyr was taken along.

The village of Wistow, in Harborough district, takes its name from the shortened Wistanstowe, meaning holy place of Wistan, and features St Wistan’s Church, built on the site where the Prince was murdered.

At 9.15am on 1 June 2022, the Chairman of Harborough District Council will welcome walkers and start the walk, which will offer space for calming conversation, and a chance to hear the history from a guide at points of reflection. The walk concludes at the civic monument on Bell Street, Wigston.

Moderate terrain

The walk is of moderate mixed terrain over fields, paths, canal towpath and pavement and requires a general fitness level.

Toilet and refreshment facilities are located at Wistow Rural Centre and in Wigston Town Centre.

Walkers are advised to plan ahead and park at Wigston, and car share to the start or walk the return route making an eight-mile round trip.

No Need to Book

There’s no need to book; just turn up and take part in the led walk, or follow the route in your own time.

Find out more about this walk and others happening across Harborough district during May for National Walking Month:

St Wistan’s Way Pilgrim Walk 2022 – Wistow to Wigston – Visit Harborough