St. Olav’s Day Wirral Viking Churches Heritage walk

Sunday July 29th 2012


*** Postscript (31st July): Photographs of this years walk can now be downloaded: click here (21Mb) ***

(thanks to John Bailey & Dave & Eileen Glover!)



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- in conjunction with St. Bridget’s Church West Kirby, the Church of St. Mary & St. Helen at Neston, St. Olave’s Chester, and the Municipality of Trondheim


Enjoy some of our magnificent Viking Heritage the healthy way! The annual St. Olav’s Day Viking Heritage Walk commemorates St. Olav Haraldsson, patron saint of Norway and every odd year goes from St. Mary and St. Helen’s in Neston (Nesstún) to St. Olave’s in Chester (13 miles or 20km) and every even year from St. Bridget’s Church West Kirby to Neston (8 miles or 12km).  It was recently featured in The Norseman  magazine & covered in Michael Wood’s BBC2 Series The Great British Story.  All are welcome on the 2012 walk on 29th July (St. Olav’s Day) and we meet at 11.30am for a 12 noon start at St. Bridget’s.


from “On the Pilgrim Way to Trondheim” by Stein Thue: Wandering into a new landscape: Pilgrims made their way to the shrine of St. Olav in Nidaros Cathedral (the Cathedral in Trondheim) for a little over five hundred years, from 1031 until the reformation in 1537.  When we now encourage people to walk the pilgrim ways it is to reap the benefits of outdoor life, special cultural experiences and personal reflection. The pilgrim dares to leave behind everything that is near and dear and wander into a new landscape, where he becomes a peregrine, a wanderer from far away.  In the middle ages he would break from everything around him to express his devotion, seek healing, or do penance.  Today a pilgrim seeks knowledge, recreation and self-fulfilment in such a way that perhaps the path is more important than the goal.
The pilgrim understands that there is a path he must travel and that there is risk in the endeavour.  The benefits nevertheless outweigh the risk for those who dare embark on such and adventure, as on their return from their fulfilling wandering, they will shed at least one prejudice and replace it with at least one new idea.


Please note, that though this walk is not strenuous, it is quite long. Please wear appropriate footwear and bring refreshments to last the distance. People who take part do so at their own risk.  The walk is approximately 12km (8 miles) and starts at the St. Bridget’s Church at West Kirby (meet 9.30am – includes a description of the dedication to St. Olav in the church and a demonstration of the famous West Kirby Viking hogback tombstone – one of two on Wirral) and makes its way along the Dee coast  to St. Mary’s and St. Helen’s Church at Neston, finishing with a demonstration of the magnificent Viking stonework (fragments of at least 3 crosses) and replica reconstruction of one of the crosses (the “Viking Lady” cross).

St. Bridget’s West Kirby was founded by Viking settlers coming to Wirral from Dublin – St. Bridget is a patron saint of Ireland – and the church is the home of the famous Viking hogback tombstone, dated to around AD 1000.

St. Mary and St. Helen at Neston: St. Helen is also associated with Norse settlers coming via Ireland and the church houses fragments of at least two 10th century ring headed crosses, recording events from the life of a Viking couple.  One of the fragments includes the earliest depiction of a jousting contest.

St. Olave’s at Chester: Original church founded by Chester’s Viking community in the 11th Century. Now the building is used as an archive for the Cheshire Records Office. (N.B. The 2012 walk we just go as far as Neston).

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Outline Route


·         Meet 11.30 for a 12noon start at St. Bridget’s Church West Kirby

·         Along the Wirral Way to Thurstaston & the current Visitor Centre or “TJ’s” café bar for refreshments

·         Continue along the Wirral Way to Neston



Detailed Route

Stage 1: St. Bridgets, vestri KirkjubyrKaldeyjar

St. Bridgets church is a short (10 min) walk from West Kirby Railway station

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St. Bridgets                                           Hogback tombstone







Stage 2: Kaldejyar - Thorsteinn’s tún



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Stage 3: Thorsteinn’s túnHesliwellaGeittún



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Stage 4: GeittúnParkgata -Nesstún


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This is the end of the walk: there will be a demonstration of the cross fragments and the replica and refreshments will be served at the back of the church.


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The magnificent “Viking Lady” Neston cross replica/ reconstruction at St. Mary and St. Hilary’s – the end of the walk



Transport back to West Kirby

There are trains from Neston Station close by:

Neston depart 16.52 arrive West Kirby (after changing at Bidston) at 17.37.

The next train is not until 19.22.




Please note that, in common with the main St. Olav’s Pilgrimage in Norway, although we provide a guide, walkers are responsible for their own safety and come on the walk at their own risk.






See this Blog from the 2011 walk with BBC’s Michael Wood.

Excerpt from Program 2 “Tribes to Nations” of Michael Wood’s acclaimed 2012 BBC2 Series The Great British Story.

Article in the Norseman Magazine, January/February 2009


Olsok: St. Olaf's pilgrimage in Norway produced by Trondheim Kommune


Ólavsøka: St. Olav’s Festival in Faroe Islands


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2001


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2002


St. Olave’s Wirral Chester Viking Walk 2010 


Wirral and West Lancashire Viking Research Page.



Enquiries: Steve Harding



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