Tour overview

July 15-27, 2020

Led by the Very Rev. Dominic Barrington & the Very Rev. Paul Kennington

Diocese of Chicago

In 563, an Irish Christian called Columba founded a monastery on the island of Iona, and lit a spark that flamed into one of the brightest and most significant periods of Christian history in Britain – that of the Celtic church. From Iona, the Celtic mission spread across Scotland and northern England, and in 635 another island monastery was founded by Aidan at Lindisfarne. Both of these monasteries played a major part in the re-evangelization of northern Britain, and have become revered places of pilgrimage, receiving countless visitors year by year, who seek to honor the legacy of these missionary saints. 

We are delighted to invite you to join us in a pilgrimage which will explore the history and geography of the Celtic mission in Britain. Starting on Iona, we will travel through Scotland to Lindisfarne, and south to the cathedral city of Durham. As we journey we will discover the stories of Columba and Aidan, Cuthbert, Wilfrid, Hild and Bede, and visit some of the places where they lived and worked. We will learn what made the Celtic approach to Christianity both so distinctive and so popular, and we will learn of its ending at the Synod of Whitby in 664, when it was decided that the whole country should follow the more universal Roman practices of the Christian faith. 

During our time together, we will enjoy times of silence, times of prayer and worship, and times of laughter, sight-seeing, eating and drinking, and forging new friendships. We hope you can join us. 

Accommodation on Iona is strictly limited, and the hotel at which we will stay is not large. Places on this pilgrimage are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and you are encouraged to mail your booking form and deposit no later than December 22, 2019 and your final payment is due April 25, 2020. 


  • Airfare Including all taxes
  • Transportations
  • Hotel Accommodations
  • Breakfast and most Dinners
  • All entrance fees and local government taxes

Not Included

  • Single Room Supplement
  • Tips
  • Lunches and some Dinners
  • Beverages
  • Laundry and items of a personal nature
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Day 1: Wednesday, July 15

We meet in the afternoon at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for our flight to London. Dinner and breakfast will be served on board.

Day 2: Thursday, July 16

Landing in London in the early morning, we clear UK immigration and connect onwards for our flight to Glasgow. On landing, we will drive to the city of Oban on the west coast of mainland Scotland, and after a short break for lunch (not included in the tour price), we catch the ferry to the isle of Mull, continue across the island, and finally come to the passenger ferry that will take us on to Iona. We hope to arrive in time to unpack and freshen up before dinner.

Days 3-5: Friday, July 17-Sunday, July 19

We will enjoy three quiet days of retreat, prayer and exploration as we discover something of the history and beauty of this very special island that saw the beginning of the Celtic mission in Britain so many centuries ago. Our time will include worship, silence and the chance to take part in an walking pilgrimage around the island.

The prestige of Iona began in AD 563 when the Celtic bishop Columba and his twelve companions sailed from Ireland to found a monastery here and used it as a base from which to convert the Picts to Christianity. The monastery was attacked and burned six times by Vikings and was eventually abandoned as the monks withdrew to the safety of monasteries such as Kells in Ireland. lona was occupied again in 1203 as a Benedictine monastery, but it fell into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s. The oldest surviving building is St Oran’s chapel (c. 1080), and the ornately carved St. Martin’s Cross (10th century) stands outside the abbey. Today lona is a sacred place visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Day 6: Monday, July 20

We leave Iona after breakfast, and after our two ferry journeys, we will head to Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, where we will spend two nights. Our hotel is located in the heart of downtown Edinburgh, a very short walk from the famous Princes Street, so we will enjoy an excellent location for our time here.

Day 7: Tuesday, July 21

This morning we will explore the royal Palace of Holyrood House, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. We will spend two hours here discovering its history and enjoying some of its treasures, after which the rest of the day will be free for people to explore Edinburgh as they wish.

Day 8: Wednesday, July 22

This morning we will visit St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral and learn something of its ministry in downtown Edinburgh, before heading onwards to continue our exploration of the history of the Celtic church, by visiting the ruins of Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders. From here we continue towards the east coast, to spend one night at our hotel just outside Berwick.

Day 9: Thursday, July 23

After breakfast we will make our way to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where we will spend the morning and early afternoon, leaving at around 3pm to make our way south to the magnificent cathedral city of Durham, which will be our home for the final four nights of our pilgrimage.

Day 10: Friday, July 24

Today we will learn of the end of the Celtic era of Christianity in Britain, as we visit Whitby, and learn of the Synod which took place there in 664. We will visit the ruins of the medieval abbey, set dramatically on cliffs overlooking the town, and also learn something of the ministry of the church in Whitby today. After the opportunity to have a classic British fish-and-chip lunch, we will visit the stunning medieval abbey ruins at Rievaulx, before returning to Durham in time for dinner.

Day 11: Saturday, July 25

This morning we will explore Durham Cathedral, with a guided tour of this extraordinary building which dominates the city. Built as the final resting place of St Cuthbert, the most beloved of the Northumbrian saints, we will celebrate a final pilgrim Eucharist here. Late morning we will drive west to the market town of Hexham, to enjoy some time in its abbey church (now the working Episcopal parish for the town), and learn of the history of St Wilfrid.

Day 12: Sunday, July 26

This morning we will join the local community at worship in Durham Cathedral. The rest of the day will be free, for last-minute shopping, wandering around Durham’s beautiful river banks, and attending Choral Evensong for those who wish. In the evening we will have a farewell dinner to mark the end of our pilgrimage.

Day 3: Monday, July 27

After breakfast we drive the short distance to Newcastle Airport for our flight to London, where we connect onwards for our international flight back to the USA, arriving in the early evening.

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