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From Lanark through the Uplands and Borders
Lanark Leg is one of the most scenic routes of Northern Cross, taking in rolling hills, dramatic waterfalls, historic monuments and a wonderful range of churches, new and old. The leg follows a well-established route through the beautiful Scottish Borders, following the River Tweed for much of the route before joining with the other legs on Good Friday morning at Beale Sands for the final crossing to Lindesfarne.
We meet on the Friday evening at St. Mary's church hall in Lanark. We come together to eat and we share out responsibilities, from Liturgy and Music coordinators to Chief Sandwich Maker, making sure that everybody plays a part in the community we create to celebrate Holy Week. Finally, we hold an evening service and turn in early, so we are ready to start walking in the morning.
Lanark is a physically demanding leg at around 110 miles. We carry a large wooden cross every step of the way (although every year the old joke about pushing it into the Tweed to float down and meet us in Berwick becomes a little more appealing…) and there are several long days and steep climbs. On the first morning coming out of Lanark we start with a scramble up the often muddy though always stunning nature trail along the Clyde Gorge, gazing at waterfalls and spying on nesting falcons, and the hard work continues right through to a bracing pre-dawn hike on Good Friday to make it to Beale Sands in time for the crossing to Holy Island - the tide does not wait for tardy pilgrims!
However, that is not to say that Lanark Leg is only available to those who are super-fit – we also rely on our support drivers, who take turns to ferry the group’s belongings between the overnight stops, getting the chance to walk for at least part of the day, depending on how much they feel able to do. Lanark also has a reputation for being a fun leg with good food, camaraderie, sparkling conversation, and many, many fine pubs along the route!
We have friends along the way who year-on-year welcome us with their hospitality, every year amazing us once more with their generosity and warmth. Sometimes we meet new faces who are interested in learning about Northern Cross and our Easter pilgrimage. We often sing as we walk, a joyful (and hopefully tuneful) mixture of hymns, shanties, and nonsensical rhymes. When we pass through towns and villages we even try to coordinate so that we all sing the same holy song at the same time!
Many of the places we pass hold great historical or religious significance, and we are fortunate enough to be allowed access to them. On the Tuesday of Holy Week we visit Melrose and hold a brief service in the beautiful ruins of its famous abbey. We also pass many monuments during the week, including a huge statue of William Wallace, where it is compulsory to stop and sing a rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland.
On Maundy Thursday, we cross the border into England, somehow managing to keep Scotland to the South for several hundred meters! We visit the site of the battle of Flodden Field in the afternoon, which often provokes a good deal of quiet reflection. In good weather we then ford the river Till into Etal village by tractor, but in flooding conditions we must use a longer road route (boo!) During the evening service we wash one another’s feet before enjoying a Seder meal together.
We start walking very, very early on the morning of Good Friday, as Lanark Leg has furthest to travel in order to reach the causeway to Holy Island. We join the other Legs at Beale Sands, all finally crossing to Lindisfarne together as a united Northern Cross.<<< back to short description