Ruthwell To The Lakes And St Asaph
Choose a route through the Lake District, which might include Caldbeck (St Kentigern’s church), Apatria (Church of St Kentigern), Dearham (Church of St Mungo), Crossthwaite (Church of St Kentigern) and Keswick and Castlerigg stone circle, Grasmere, Rydal, Windermere and Kendal before carrying on by way of Lancaster and Preston.
Once in to Wales you will approach St Asaph on the A55. Ten miles before you reach St Asaph, make the short detour to St. Winefride’s Well.
Reach Carlisle and continue south on NCN 7. Follow NCN 10 towards Silloth. Leave this route at Abbeytown (Applegarth Abbey) to follow minor roads to Aspatria (Church of St Kentigern). Carry on by way of Dearham (Church of St Mungo) to Cockermouth, and from here go eastwards on NCN 10. Branch off this route for Caldbeck (St Kentigern’s church). Follow minor roads to Mungrisdale, there joining NCN 71, and follow this to Keswick and Crossthwaite (Church of St Kentigern). Retrace your path to the eastern edge of Keswick, and then branch right off NCN 71 for Castlerigg stone circle. Now continue on minor roads to turn right on to NCN 6 (sharing the B5322 at this point). NCN 6 takes you (with gaps), to Grasmere, Windermere, Kendal and on to Lancaster and Preston. NCN 62 to Liverpool is mostly completed. Cross the Mersey by ferry to follow NCN 56 to Chester, and from there NCN 5 to Rhyl. (Detour from the route at Bagillt for St Winifride’s Well). After crossing the River Clwyd turn left on to NCN84 for St Asaph.
Before his eventual return to Glasgow, under the protection of King Roderick of Strathclyde, Mungo left Scotland and journeyed through Cumbria by Penrith and Maryburgh to what is now called the Lake District. Though Cumbria was a British territory like Strathclyde, the mountainous Lakes were still wild country. From Ruthwell our journey offers a return to Glasgow by Nithsdale, or this much longer route south.
Mungo or Kentigern’s progress is marked by early sites and dedications beginning from his field preaching at Keswick close to the stone circle at Castle Crag. His journey goes through the heart of the Lakes by Grasmere, Rydal, Windermere and Kendal. Mungo then continues south by Preston and Lancaster but his destination may always have been Wales, drawn by the influence of St David and the hope of Christian sanctuary.
After some initial hostility, Mungo established a monastery in North Wales at St Asaph which flourished peacefully as a longstanding Christian community, beside another River Clwyd. It was with some reluctance that after many happy years Mungo returned to the struggle in Glasgow at Roderick’s request, appointing Asaph his successor.
This area remains an attractive focus of pilgrimage, coming into Wales by Chester and to the little Cathedral St Asaph via Holywell. The route then continues west by Angelsey and the Lleyn Peninsula to Bardsey Island. Perhaps Mungo would have preferred to head in that direction but some of his most important achievements still awaited him in the north.
A later pilgrim, the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, records his sense of beauty and spiritual sanctuary here in ‘In the Valley of the Elwy’.
I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made these kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.
Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales.