Remembrance Day for Lost Species

A community walk along the edge of the Firth of Forth to look for eider ducks, oyster catchers and curlew which are all on the RSPB amber list.

Why are we walking?

Remembrance Day for Lost Species, November 30th, is a chance each year to explore the stories of extinct and critically endangered species, cultures, lifeways, and ecological communities. 

Whilst emphasising that these losses are rooted in violent and discriminatory governing practices, the day provides an opportunity for participants to make or renew commitments to all who remain, and to develop creative and practical solutions. 

Remembrance Day for Lost Species honours diverse experiences and practices associated with enduring and witnessing the loss of cultural and biological diversity

Remembrance Day for Lost Species website

Where?

Starting at the end of the Eastern Breakwater at Granton Harbour and walking along through the industrial area between Granton Square and the end of the Silverknowes walkway, continuing along the front, then turning inland to Lauriston Farm.

Lauriston Farm

Lauriston Farm write: “The north section of the farm is dedicated to habitat creation for coastal birds – we’re working to create the right conditions to encourage curlews and other wading and coastal wintering birds to return to the farm so they can find undisturbed areas to roost and feed. We have also seen a family of grey partridge (a red listed species) on the farm this year, and our work to create meadows, wetlands, hedgerows, field crops and tree lines plus a mixed management regime on grasslands will support this species as well as the curlews and other coastal birds.

The message we really want to get across is that we encourage and support people to visit and go for walks on Lauriston Farm *and* we really need visitors to help protect the north and middle field as a habitat for these endangered bird species. We ask all visitors to stay away from the north and middle fields, and to keep dogs away from those fields (look out for the maps on the farm that show the protected areas) so that the birds are not disturbed. We maintain a large area of grass to the east of the market garden to give space for dogs to play away from the north fields.

Lauriston Farm is a project on iNaturalist (an international citizen science project) and we would love visitors to report anybird sightings on the app – more details here: https://www.lauristonfarm.scot/posts/180″

dav

Level of difficulty

A relaxed and easy walk (flat until the last part – a gentle slope up to the farm).

What to bring / wear

Bring a flask and snack if you like – there are picnic benches – binoculars, and wear suitable clothing / footwear for the December Scottish weather. It will be mostly tarmac underfoot throughout.

Note

Please note that this is not a circular walk.

Sound Walk – The Wall

My Sound Walk has been short-listed by walklistencreate.com for a Sound Walk September Award 2022. I am delighted.

From the Artist’s Walk in September

So I made a new film as a taster. You can view it here

The Wall taster film

Also on Vimeo

https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/768557562

You can listen on the Western Breakwater itself to get the full experience or at home via Soundcloud

And on Soundcloud

https://soundcloud.com/user-786319665/the-wall to listen to the whole thing.

The others on the shortlist

Check out all the other shortlisted sound walks here from Wednesday 9th November 2022.

Equinox

Autumn 2022

I have been involved in a project devised and documented by Kel Portman. A curator on this Walking the Land project, his initial invitation set off a chain of coincidences and connections to do with the passing of time and how we experience sound.

“As the equinox marks the cusp of seasonal changes with the beginning of Autumn in the North and Spring in the South, artists record their reflections on the transition, the changes of light and the passing of time.”

KP

Stretching Time

Stretching Time was my contribution.

I walked in Edinburgh on consecutive days, photographing the sunset on the 22nd September, and the sunrise on the 23rd. As the earth’s axis comes perpendicular to the sun which crosses the equator from north to south, we, in the Northern Hemisphere, are traditionally celebrating harvest and know that we are moving into a darker and colder, more restful and reflective period. At this auspicious occasion, we pass through a time of near balance of 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night (equi-nox : equal-night).

I time-ordered my photos, made an equator-axis tip, and then overlaid the images. I had been reading about “light being stretched and becoming redder” in The Guardian (24/9/22), and inspired by the James Webb telescope photo of Saturn, used a bloody tint. On that day, I was on a train crossing from Scotland to England and added some words about my own feelings at this time.

Stretching Time 

As the sun hits the equator
And the earth tilts an iota, 
I marvel. 

As the cells die in my body, 
And the train hurls itself southwards, 
I cry. 

As the rain stops at the border, 
And the year passes the baton, 
I know I must change. 

Link to the video. Thanks to Kel Portman.

Then in October I attended an opening at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop where Alliyah Enyo‘s work, Selkie Reflections, is in the tower. It is an other-worldly soundscape, reminiscent of sea mammals’ song and Tibetan Tonqin Longhorn. She writes about whale sounds taking more time to travel through sea water, but being able to travel far longer distances, and she mentions stretching time:

This is much like the pathos experienced when listening to an audio recording of a person from years ago, as time is stretched and distended by a voice communicating from the past.

Alliyah Enyo

I had already been listening to David Haskell describing the way sea creatures hear with the whole body:

If I had a watery fish body, sound would penetrate through me. Aquatic beings are immersed in the sound that they’re in.

David George Haskell on Walk Listen Create

So, as I sat in the tower listening to Enyo’s installation, I imagined I was hearing through my watery, bodily fluids. My eyes were not shut, but I could see horizontal, parallel wavy lines between me and the walls, and there were layers of sound, not just of the composition itself, but of birds from the cycle path, voices from the bench beside me, and people speaking outside the tower.

Allayah Enyo’s soundscape at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, looking up

Link to the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

The more we engage with what we used to refer to as a separate, natural world, the more it is obvious that we are part of that world, that we all influence and have the opportunity to influence each other. Humans are limited in the world of sound, compared to birds (which I have written about before No Birds Land) and dolphins, for example, and I’d be interested to hear if you have tried listening in different ways and if so, how that was for you.

Re:living Weekend Art Exhibition

Saturday 1st Oct 11am – 4pm

Sunday 2nd October 10am – 12noon and 2.30 – 4.30pm

At granton:hub, (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS. Link to the full weekend programme here.

Showing the mixed media work of selected artists from Granton, Edinburgh and around the UK, this pop-up exhibition addresses themes of death, grief, loss, and re:living.

“KUMMER  KASTEN” by Bibo Keeley. Translated from the German, the title roughly translates into ‘agony box’. Bibo writes, “Whenever thoughts of personal loss, traumatic experiences, or even fears for the future of the planet become overwhelming, I put my thoughts to paper and place them in this box.  It’s an on-going process, and every now and then I take out all the things I have written and burn them.” Material: ply wood (and other materials). Size:  L 40cm W 18cm H 12cm

This varied exhibition includes painting and drawing, artists books, sculpture, film and poetry by:

Bea Denton beadenton.com LinkTree

Tamsin Grainger Showing sculpture, Clipp’d Wings

Throes of Grief Collective

Natalie Taylor

Sarah Gittens

Val Cannon @valcannonart on instagram

Anneleen Lindsay @anneleenphoto on Instagram

paula roush @mobile_strategies We are exhibiting paula’s book. You can find out about it here

Emma Douglas

Moose Azim

Sasha Callaghan @sashasaben on instagram

Emmett McSheffrey

Liza Green

Bibo Keeley @bibo_keeley_artist on instagram

Gina Fierlafijn Reddie

Jenny Smith www.jennysmith.org.uk www.drawnto.org.uk

No Birds Land – One Year On

Sound Walk and Art Installation, September 2021-September 2022

Sound Walk September, a global festival, has come round again and I am minded to reflect on the year that No Birds Land has been in the Trinty Tunnel on the Edinburgh cycle paths. Here is last year’s blog with all the details about location, transcript and documentation.

Funded by Sustrans and the RSPB, No Birds Land was shortlisted for a Sound Walk September award in 2021, and a year later, No Birds Land is still up, albeit in a different form.

Cave paintings

The preparation time for No Birds Land consisted of lengthy email conversations, and long hiatuses between communications with lots of departments of the City Council and tunnel owners; a frustrating process. I was in contact with all my local MSPs and Councillors, most of whom were very helpful, and some who pulled strings behind the scenes I think. In the end someone (maybe anonymously) telephoned me and suggested I just went ahead instead of waiting for permissions!

What remains?

Although I had initially planned for wooden A boards at either end of this place where birds cannot nest or sing and hardly ever fly, the signage folk persuaded me that street signs would be better, given the weather and so on, and they have been fantastic, standing stalwart through wind and rain. With their air of familiar street furniture, you need to look twice before realising that they are something a little bit different. Furthermore, covered in graffiti and stickers nowadays, they blend into the tagged landscape beautifully.

The sound endures on the cloud. The QR code printed in indelible inks, its distinctive black and white geometrical pattern prevailing, is the interface between the ubiquitous mobile phone and ‘Soundcloud’, where it sits waiting to be triggered and listened to. It’s an eerie experience for me to walk or cycle through and hear my own voice: “What can you hear? Hear, hear. What can you he-he-he…?”

I never thought it would still exist so much later, indeed I was asked how long it would be up and warned that it wouldn’t last long, what with vandals and so on, that I better watch out for any danger it might cause.

So what has changed?

The very long string of bunting with bird images and sounds on it, was trickier to install than I imagined even though I had my friend, tall-Andrew, to assist, so people stopped. They wanted to know what we were up to and immediately started to help. This community involvement has continued.

For 6 weeks it was untouched, but in October when I proudly led a group of Pilgrimage for COP26 hikers through to show them, it had suffered its first attack and much of it was lying in pools of bright orange water, the run-off from the walls which had collected ores and elements on its way down.

Look at the colours the rain has co-created with the graffiti and the wall itself!

I had been checking almost daily before we left for Dunbar and the start of our Climate Trek. I would stand or sit close by to watch people interacting with it, listening to their conversations if they were in groups, and asking them what they thought if I sensed they were up for a chat. Despite my fears, it had stayed whole.

At this stage of the Pilgrimage, we had a journalist with us who was interviewing me as we walked and my distress was obviously clear because other members of the group started to kindly collect the parts and attempt to make good. However, we had to continue on our way to South Queensferry, so I phoned artist-Lesley that evening and asked her if she might do her best to attend to it until I was able to do so myself, and she kindly obliged.

Rotting twine

It has taken on a life of its own

Since then, unseen passers by have often repaired and rehung lengths. I used to do it myself but after 6 months, I thought I would leave it to have its own life, and now I see new types of string connecting the pennants, and sections which weren’t there one day have magically reappeared the next. Little changes have been made, signalling the care that has been taken, and also showing, subtly to me, that there is understanding of the work itself.

The graffiti scrawlers add to it, another artist has complemented it, and nature has made many changes. Walking with Jim Slaven along the canal as part of the Art Festival in August 2022, I was interested to hear him comparing the 2 tunnels along the Forth and Clyde, how one was built soundly, is dry and in tact, and the other was not and lets in the rain. Well the engineer who built the Trinity Tunnel, Thomas Grainger (no relation, even though that’s the exact name of my grandfather who was also a tunnel engineer and worked in Trinity House in London!) didn’t do a great job, because ‘my’ tunnel is verr-ry damp.

And it seems to still have life because when people ask what I do and I tell them about No Birds Land, they know what I mean. They say “Oh yes, I’ve seen it and like it”. Walking along an adjacent path recently, I met a Community Policeman and he knew it too. Talking to dog walkers who were telling me what they thought of the new Sound Walk / Installation, The Wall (my entry for the Sound Walk September 2022), I heard, “Oh you are the artist! Yes, I listened to that and told my neighbours on the stair, ‘you must listen to The Wall’. We need more of these.” It’s heartening, of course.

The Wall, Western Breakwater, Granton Harbour

What is much harder to ascertain, is the effect that No Birds Land has had. Has it informed people about the plight of our nesting birds and why that is happening? Has it suggested alternatives to the prevailing habits of designing glass buildings with no ledges for birds to perch on, nor eaves for them to make their nests under, for example? That is so much more difficult to guage.

This type of long-term intervention in a public space, which is used by commuters and other regulars as a through-way between the sea and the city, encourages people to eventually stop and check it out, it allows for re-listening and sharing with friends and family (I have been told this). It went up at the tail end of the Covid restrictions, at a time when walking was still super-popular, and so there is a high footfall (12-48 people an hour depending on whether it’s a week day or a Sunday). It has repurposed the space and brought art outside and to its audience.

Sound Walk September Festival

Here is an interactive map and full list of walking pieces on the walk.listen.create website, and here is a full programme of events. There are three different ways you can get involved:

  • In-situ pieces (like The Wall); These are timetabled pieces which take place at a physical location
  • Downloadable sound walks; These can be downloaded and undertaken at a time of the walker’s choosing
  • Online events; these events have a nominal fee and range from group discussions to artist-hosted talks and hands-on workshops.

And for artists, there are four ways to get involved:

  • Submit a piece to the walk · listen · create platform
  • Host a timetabled sound walk event in a physical location
  • Host or participate in an online event
  • Enter for the Sound Walk September Award

Press coverage

‘Wondrous Variation; in the Broughton Spurtle

Grief Circle and Mandala

This event was held on Sunday 2 October 2022 at granton:hub 12.15 – 2.15pm

Photo Dawn Oei

It took the form of a floor-seated circle of participants, a ritual to contain our grief, a structure within which to allow feelings to flow at a manageable rate.

Photo Dawn Oei

With respect and compassion, we facilitated a sharing circle and a safe space to bring grief and memories with a view to Re:live (both the past and in the future). It was held in the same room as the Death Café (the evening before) and the Re:living Art Exhibition.

Bibo Keeley’s Kummer Kasten (agony box)

After the circle, we went outside to burn the messages which visitors and participants had written and put in Bibo Kerley’s Kummer Kasten / Agony Box. We also added paper art that we had made during the Circle.

Photo, Dawn Oei

There was a Closing Ritual for this session and for the whole weekend.

Co-curators: Bea Denton (London) Tamsin Grainger (Granton, Edinburgh)

Bea is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.

Tamsin is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).

Re:living Weekend

30 Sep – 2 Oct 2022 granton:hub, (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS

The Re:living Weekend is a response to our human need to talk, walk, remember, and make art about the ever-present experiences of death, grief and loss in our lives. Whether we are grieving for a close friend, pet or family member; concerned about the loss of bird, insect or plant habitats and other changes to our climate; affected by war; or managing on-going / one-off life events around relationship, work and/or home loss, coming together with others to focus, share, or simply be with our feelings is supportive.


Programme

30 Sep Walkshop 2-4pm

30 Sep Memory Art Workshop 4.30-6.30pm

1 Oct Mixed media pop-up Art Exhibition 11am-4pm

1 Oct Death Cafe 6.30-8pm

2 Oct Mixed media pop-up Art Exhibition 10am-12noon and 4.30-6.30pm

2 Oct Grief Circle and Mandala 12.15-2.15pm

Venue

All activities will take place in or around granton:hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

Booking

You may like to engage with one or more events, or all of them.

To book for the whole weekend click here

For the Memory walkshop

For the Memory Art workshop

There is no need to book for the Art Exhibition

For the Death Cafe

For the Grief Circle and Mandala

Or contact tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com. All events are free although donations (to cover costs) are welcome.

c Bea Denton

Re:living Art Exhibition

1st October 11am-4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am-12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

Showing the mixed media work of selected artists from Granton, Edinburgh and around the UK, this pop-up exhibition addresses themes of death, grief, loss, and re:living. This varied exhibition includes painting and drawing, artists books, sculpture, film and poetry.

More details here

Re:living walkshop and memory art workshop

We welcome everyone, whatever age, ability, status or gender. The walk- and workshop will be conducted in English. Please note that the walkshop will be fully accessible, however the Granton Hub is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.

Walkshop: Friday 30 September Meet at Madelvic House for a 2pm departure. We will return there by 4pm. Book here

Participants will be taken on a prescribed route around the area immediate to the Granton Hub.

Participants will be invited to bring an object (or image) that speaks to them of absence and/or loss, to help channel thoughts and memories. This will be something small enough to hold in the hand, or put into a bag or back pack while walking. During the walk, we will be facilitating creative activities, so the object shouldn’t inhibit creativity.

During the Walkshop, participants will be invited to walk, sometimes in silence, and to respond to the environment and to their personal experience and thoughts about death, loss and grief through drawing, writing, recording, performance etc. There will be times to stop and draw, to record sounds, to photograph, to write or to perform.

Memory Art Workshop: Friday 30 September 4.30-6.30pm. Book here

The Memory Art Workshop will take place at Granton Hub after the Walkshop, and will begin with group reflection and discussion about experiences and feelings from the Walkshop.


During the Workshop, participants will be asked to witness and listen to each other, and are encouraged to share and talk about the drawings / photographs / sounds / writing that they made during the Walkshop. This is not a critique, and we do not expect participants to have any previous art and design experience or qualification.

Following this discussion, you will be invited to draw / write / record / photograph in response to your own and/or others work and shared experiences. Transformation is a key element in this Workshop – making new multi-layered works that materialise grief through transformation of images, words, sounds etc. Participants will create new works using simple techniques, that will be layered to form new composite works that will be exhibited at Granton Hub on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October.

All materials will be provided.

Please note that there will be a half hour break inside between the Walkshop and Workshop for refreshments (provided, though contributions gratefully received).

c Bea Denton

Death Cafe

Saturday 1 October 6.30-8pm at granton:hub Book here

Death Café is a group meeting in person in Edinburgh where people can come to talk about death. Book via Eventbrite

Talking about death is not something that we can all do with our families and friends, and yet it is something which is so often on our minds.

At the Death Café, there is an emphasis on listening and sharing, and the focus is that life is finite and we want to talk about that. We all have interests and concerns about bereavement, loss, grief or dying, especially at this time when we are dealing with the Coronavirus and fears of war.

Full details here

c Tamsin Grainger

Grief Circle and Mandala

Sunday 2 Oct 12.15 – 2.14pm Book via Eventbrite

This meeting will take the form of a floor-seated circle of participants, a ritual to contain our grief, and the creation of your own personal mandala.

More details here

Curators

Bea Denton (London) is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.

Tamsin Grainger (Granton) is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).

c Tamsin Grainger

Contact: tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com

Call for Artists and Makers

Re:living Exhibition: Call for Artists and makers

1st October 11am – 4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am and 12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

 We are inviting artist submissions for the Re:living Exhibition that address themes of Death, Grief, Loss, and Re:living. There is no prescribed media for submitted work, and can include art/design/craft.

 All work submitted should be suitable for this Granton pop-up Community Centre setting. You can see details of the room here https://grantonhub.org/ including the Sphinx Room which size is 8.75m x 4.7m. The ceiling is 3.3m high.

 Please send a digital image / brief description of the submitted artwork (no more than 3 items per person) with related web address (including contact details and social media), suggested selling price, and short bio (50 words max). Publicity photos/short video of you and your work will be required if selected.

 A 20% commission will be taken by Granton Hub on all individual works sold, and fees payable for the work sold will be made by bank transfer within 2 weeks of the close of the exhibition.

 Your work should be no bigger than A2 size (or thereabouts) and will be either wall, table (a basic refectory type table), or floor-mounted (note: there is a carpet, so no water, earth, sand etc unless completely contained). If wall-based, work should be framed and include mirror plates or D rings.

Please include the running time (in minutes) for video and audio works, and a short description of the piece. If video or audio work is selected, artists will need to supply playback equipment and ensure that it is PAT tested, with proof of compliance PRIOR to the exhibition opening.

We have a screen and moveable seating available for public showings. Artists will need to bring their own plinth(s) if needed.

 If your work is selected, it must be delivered directly to the venue on Friday 30 September at 1pm or 6.30pm, and collected on Sunday 2nd October between 4.30 and 6.30pm. Please note that this is a group exhibition of mixed media work in a non-formal gallery setting (blue carpet, walls painted either pale green or white), and will be exhibited between on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October only. You are encouraged to attend and engage with the public during these times.

It is your responsibility to insure your work and neither we, nor the Granton Hub, can take any liability for its loss or damage.

 It will be assumed that the organisers will be able to take photos during the event which can be used on social media and websites. Credits will be included where feasible.

We regret that Madelvic House is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access, but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.

Deadline for submissions: 9th September 2022

We will make our decision by: 16th September 2022

Final photos and other information will be required by: 23rd September 2022

Address for submissions: tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com

Image: Bea Denton @

St Margaret’s Way

I walked this route in 2022 and it is a varied one –  urban and rural, located both inland and along the coast. I did so as part of a bigger project, Separation and Unity, in which I walked the landscapes of Scotland and Catalonia finding similarity and difference in their volcanic history and oak woods. I am interested in the human need for both togetherness and sharing, and, at the same time, recognition of individuality.

** Please do walk the first day of the St Margaret’s Way with us on 20th August 2022, from Palmerston Place to South Queensferry (or some of the way as you like). We will be starting at 10am – please tell us you are coming Facebook event.

The only Scottish pilgrimage named after a woman, the St Margaret’s Way, is representative of so many women’s stories – there are no waymarkers on the ground and apparently no detailed information online about it.

[These women were] “strong, creative, independent-minded

women who achieved a visibility in their society that led to recognition of sanctity.

Forgetful of their sex: female sanctity and society, ca. 500-1100
JT Schulenburg – 1998

And yet Margaret (c1045-1093) was a Queen. More, she was a highly influential, practical, intelligent and determined woman, who was later sainted, and is almost always described as pious. Someone who was dedicated to serving others, and mother to a queen and three kings (she birthed eight children in total), she was also a Hungarian refugee who must have understood what it was like to arrive on foreign shores after a long boat journey. Devoutly religious (Catholic), she was a pilgrim who launched a ferry service to take walkers across the Firth of Forth, before there were bridges, so they could continue to St Andrews.

St Margaret, Brabourne, Kent, from A Clerk of Oxford blogspot

She was not in charge of her life, you might say [because she was a queen and because of the age in which she lived]…. but she rose above that to become her own woman who would establish monasteries, infrastructure and so on. She would journey from being a potential pawn in power games to becoming a power in her own right, a power for good, a power for the poor…..

Tom Shields, St Fillan’s RC Parish Church Crail

Reading the backstories of female saints, you will find a common theme; how they were wanted by men and often had to go to great lengths to make it clear that they had other feelings and plans for themselves. Margaret was no exception (we are told in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles): “Then King Malcolm began to desire Edgar’s sister Margaret for his wife, but he and his men all argued against it for a long time, and she herself also refused, and said that she would not have him or anyone, if the divine mercy would grant that she should please the mighty Lord in virginity, with a bodily heart in pure continence in this brief life. The king urged her brother pressingly until he said yes – and indeed he dared not do otherwise, because they had come into the king’s power….though it was against her will” (translation A Clerk of Oxford blogspot ) [It goes on to say that God wanted it this way as she was to go on to “lay aside the sinful customs which that nation previously followed” including influencing the king himself, so it is clear that this was not an altogether unbiased account.]

Margaret and Malcolm Canmore, Scottish National Portrait Gallery mural

I am not a religious person, so my interest in Margaret is in her standing as a woman in Medieval society; the kindness she is said to have shown to everyone, including prisoners of war; what is recorded about her relationship with her husband (we are told that he was illiterate and that she read to him); and the role she plays in the history of walking pilgrimage.

a pathway of meditation and devotion

Margaret was exceptionally well read and raised in an environment of enlightened devotion and charity…throughout her life she balanced her charitable and family work with a desire for seclusion and contemplation. Margaret strongly supported devotion to the Celtic saints while also connecting Scotland with the Europe wide development of monasticism.

The St Margaret Pilgrim Journey
Scottish National Portrait Gallery mural

Maps and routes

The version of the St Margaret’s Way which I walked is 100kms / 62 miles in length. Here are the stages:

  1. Centre of Edinburgh to South Queensferry between 17km/10.5m-22/13.5 6 hrs
  2. South Queensferry across the old road bridge to Burntisland 20km/12.5-22/13.5 7hrs
  3. Burntisland to East Wemyss
  4. East Wemyss to Earlsferry
  5. Earlsferry to Cameron Reservoir
  6. Cameron Reservoir to St Andrews
The British Pilgrimage Trust St Margaret’s Way map. I walked the blue line

There are a number of maps available and I had difficulty downloading The Way of St Andrews one, so I used the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) which is out of date just now, though soon to be updated.

Before you leave Edinburgh, you may like to visit St Margaret’s Chapel at the Castle, the city’s oldest building (early 12th c), built by her youngest son, David. It is looked after by a Guild, all run by women called Margaret.

St Margaret

The Way of St Andrews website calls this path “a modern restoration of a medieval pilgrimage walk”. The British Pilgrimage Trust offers to email you a version if you fill in their online form, which I recommend. The path is also listed in their hefty and valuable tome Britain’s Pilgrim Places (Nick Mayhew-Smith and Guy Hayward) with a little, basic information.

Strangely, Follow the Camino describes walking the St Margaret’s Way as being in “the footsteps of Scotland’s patron saint, St. Andrew”, and Fiona Diack, too, in Spotted by Locals, notes that it “dates back to the 10th century as a way to honour St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland”.

Ian Bradley, in Fife’s Pilgrim Way, cites High Lockhart as devising the route in 2011 (p26), and Donald Smith (author, scholar and instigator of the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh) as having devised the St Margaret’s Journey, offering “two routes from North Queensferry to St Andrew’s one using the Fife Coastal Path [the one I took] and the other broadly taking the same course as Cameron Black’s St Andrew’s Way.” (p27/28) which I am unfamiliar with.

The St Margaret Pilgrim Journey (link above) – a quite different tour from route I took

Note: The link on this page (Ways and Trails.co.uk) is out of date.

Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

Cameron Black’s St Andrew’s Way moves through Dunfermline where you can visit St Margaret’s cave; the Roman Catholic Memorial church which bears her name and to where a relic of the saint was returned in 1998, 900 years after her death; and the Benedictine Abbey founded by Margaret. Dunfermline Abbey and the ruins around it are all that remain of that Benedictine Abbey founded by her in the eleventh century. The foundations are under the present nave (or `Old Church`). Outside the east gable is where you can see her shrine, itself a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

 ‘that âme d’élite’, the ‘exquisite St Margaret’,

Baker, Derek. “‘A Nursery of Saints’: St Margaret of Scotland Reconsidered.” Studies in Church History Subsidia 1 (1978): 119-141. citing Knowles, MO p 242.
Earlsferry, Fife

St Andrews was a very popular place to visit. From the south the pilgrims would have came via South Queensferry (where I walked), and then got the boat to Fife. From the south east, pilgrims arrived mainly from the continent at North Berwick, where they took the ferry to the opposite coast arriving at Earlsferry (the end of my fourth day). From there they continued northwards, cutting off the East Neuk (the site of the continuation of the Fife Coastal Path) and heading directly to the final city.

Looking at St Andrews, Fife

They travelled the last 15 miles on foot to St Andrews along a track the width of “a donkey with two panniers

Scotland’s Finest
Fife Coastal Path, Kinghorn

This web page has some fun information about St Margaret. Uncover Travel

More information about St Margaret

Early primary texts about St Margaret: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle‘s account of her marriage. Extracts from the Life of Margaret written for her daughter, by a monk, Turgot, Prior of Durham, between 1100-1107 who knew Margaret and her family well. He wrote that she, “showed herself to be a pearl”, and indeed she is known as The Pearl of Scotland.

Gerda Stevenson reminds us, however, that it was she who was credited with persuading the king, her husband, to ban the use of Scots in favour of English.

I yearned / for the old tongue my mother learned me on her lap, / words that once rose up from deep inside me; / but they’re lost, the well is dry – it’s like a fatal thirst / that can’t be quenched; and I know now why / my mother called her Margaret the Accursed.

from Quines by Gerda Stevenson (2018:34)

Whether you like to walk for the pleasure of the activity the beauty of the landscape or for religious reasons, please do walk the first day of the St Margaret’s Way with us on 20th August 2022, from Palmerston Place to South Queensferry (or some of the way as you prefer). We will be starting at 10am – please tell us you are coming Facebook event or you can email me on tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com

Have you already walked the St Margaret’s Way? Please do leave a comment below if you have; I’d love to hear from you.