Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles

Friday:Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles; (BBC2, 9pm)

Will Bayley, Scarlett Moffatt, Monty Panesar, Louisa Clein, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Shazia Mirza, Nick Hewer
Will Bayley, Scarlett Moffatt, Monty Panesar, Louisa Clein, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Shazia Mirza, Nick Hewer

Easter is looming, and that’s a time when many people find themselves thinking about their faith.

It seems it’s also increasingly a time when celebrities do a bit of soul searching combined with a lot of walking, thanks to the series Pilgrimage.

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Previous series, which were all shown in the run-up to Easter, saw famous faces undertake hikes to Rome, Istanbul and along the Camino de Santiago.

Now in the fourth series, they are sticking a little closer to home, but they are still going on a journey of religious significance. Over the course of fifteen days, the seven pilgrims will follow in the footsteps of the sixth-century Irish monk, Saint Columba, learning more about his legacy as a key figure in early British Christianity who helped spread the faith from Ireland to Scotland and beyond.

It’s also a chance for them to reflect on their own spirituality – and given that they are an eclectic group, they have a wide variety of beliefs.

The celebrities are TV personality, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who describes himself as a non-conforming pagan; England cricketing legend, Monty Panesar – a practising Sikh; actress, Louisa Clein, who is Jewish; TV personality Nick Hewer – an agnostic with Catholic roots; TV presenter and podcast host, social media influencer, Scarlett Moffatt – a Christian; comedian, Shazia Mirza – a Muslim; and Paralympian, Will Bayley – a lapsed Christian.

Their journey begins in the town of Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, and ends on Iona, a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides and the site of Saint Columba’s most revered monastery. Along the way, they’ll cover more than 1600km, and visit places of worship, from pagan stones to an early Christian cave and a contemporary mosque and Sikh temple.

As they admit, it will be physically as well as spiritually taxing. Laurence says: “I think pilgrimage is about clearing out your mental closet by physical exertion and by spiritual conversation with yourself or, if you believe it, then conversation with your God… I know I come across as all sort of flouncy and floppy and rather cavalier, but I am capable of existing in the real world. However, I don’t think I’ve walked so far not wearing Cuban heels.”

On a slightly more serious note, Nick adds: “I’m doing the Pilgrimage because I’m very curious and I want to know whether what the others believe in is genuine and how they got there and am I missing out on something? I’d hate to think, at the age of 77 with only a few more years left, whether I’m actually short-changing myself.

“My greatest fear is the walking… I want to do it in the right spirit because like so many old men, I can be awkward, sometimes…”

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He’s not the only one searching for answers. Scarlett says: “I would describe myself as Christian, but not a strict Christian. I don’t go to church, but I definitely believe and religion to me is security. I’m doing the pilgrimage as I want to know what my religion is. I want to be able to answer that question with confidence.”

Like the others, her quest begins tonight.