Sacred Britain – a Guide to Places that Stir the Soul
Posted by Nick Redmayne on 30 September 2011
Martin Symington, author of Bradt’s new Sacred Britain guide cites religious pilgrimages as the earliest form of tourism, ‘when millions made journeys to the sacred, trying to score credit against the whims of fate and hoping for reward in this life or the next.’ In recent times gilded domes and dazzling temples of the East have joined earlier ancient stone circles and 180’ chalk giants with 27’ erections as ‘threads in the weft of sacred Britain’. However, it’s a non sequitor that all ‘sacred’ places are religious. As Martin observes, ‘when science seeks to strip the mystery from existence, the yearning to visit places that evoke responses of emotion, soul or spirit remains immutable.’
Sacred Britain’s chapters explore London, Southeastern England, Southwestern England, Central and Eastern England, Northern England, Wales and Scotland. The Grave of the Unknown Warrior ‘among kings’ in Westminster Abbey; the witch of Cumbria’s mysterious Long Meg stone circle; Lindisfarne’s monkish redoubt at the wet end of the 62-mile St Cuthbert’s Way footpath; and the Scottish Borders’ Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, a homage to a people and culture China would rather have us forget, are all intriguing if not surprising inclusions. Karl Marx’s Highgate tomb warrants an entry too, despite the big beard’s godless creed. And as football usurps religion as the contemporary mass’s opiate of choice, verses on Old Trafford’s hallowed turf, floodlight spires reaching skywards, dubious prophets jogging on hallowed turf and disciples singing songs of praise… fit right in. Featured elsewhere, the sycamore tree altar to 20th Century Boy, Marc Bolan, and Diana’s island tomb on the Althorp estate resonate differently. Martin’s conclusion is that ‘the innate and acquired atmosphere of a place is what makes it ‘sacred’… a sacred place is one that needs to be felt in the heart as well as viewed with the eye.’ – a subtlety captured sensitively in his book.
Martin Symington is a UK-based travel journalist and author who has written for national newspapers, travel magazines and publishers in a career spanning more than 20 years. Martin has won numerous awards including, in 2005, the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Travel Writer of the Year. He lives with his family quite near the mysterious Avebury Stone Circle.
Title: Sacred Britain
Author: Martin Symington
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides
Publication: October 2011
ISBN: 978 1 84162 363 4
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