St. Olav’s Day Wirral/Chester Viking Heritage walk

Monday July 29th 2013


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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


This years St. Olav’s Day Viking walk and Pilgrimage will take place on Monday 29th July and will go from the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port, along the beautiful Shropshire Union Canal to St. Olave’s Church, St. Olave’s Street (off Lower Bridge Street) in Chester.  We meet at 10 am for a 10.30 start.  The walk is approximately 8-9 miles and will last for about 3 hours. The walk will finish with a short dedication outside St. Olave’s followed by refreshment in a local hostelry.  We return to Ellesmere Port by Merseyrail line (every half an hour from Chester station, fare approx. £3).  The railway stations are approx. 10 minutes away from the start and end points of the walk.  If you are interested in participating please email Steve Harding.   We would like to stress that in common with the main St. Olav’s pilgrimage in Norway which occurs on the same day, please note that all walkers/pilgrims do so at their own risk.  The organisers merely provide a guide!  .

: The annual walk was first introduced in 2008 to celebrate Wirral and Chester’s Viking heritage and to commemorate St. Olav Haraldsson, patron saint of Norway. It was recently featured in The Norseman magazine.   Since then many people have enjoyed the envigoration of a “mini” pilgrimage with Christian-Viking roots, including BBC Television’s Michael Wood, who joined us in 2010.  In the past the walk has used 2 routes 1. St. Bridgets’ Church in West Kirby to St. Mary and St. Helen in Neston 2. St. Mary and St. Helen in Neston to St. Olave’s Church in Chester.  This year we are starting at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port (not far from the old Viking settlement at Whitby) and will be walking along the Shropshire Union Canal to St. Olave’s in Chester.

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.


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 what is believed to be 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.

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Please note, that although this walk is not strenuous, it is quite long (9 miles, approx. 3 hours). Please wear appropriate footwear and bring bottled water/ refreshments to last the distance. The cafeteria at the Waterways Museum will be open from 10am for refreshment/ purchase of water before the start.




1. Start Point: National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

Meet 10am for a 10.30 start. Address:

South Pier Road

Ellesmere Port

CH65 4FW

Tel: 0151 355 5017 or 0151 373 4373


How to get there: By road - from junction 9 on the M53 follow brown signs for 'The Boat Museum'.

By rail - 10 minutes walk from Ellesmere Port station. Merseyrail half-hourly service from central Liverpool, Chester and stations on the Wirral.

By bus - 20 minutes walk from Ellesmere Port bus station. Wide range of services including from Caernarfon, Chester, Liverpool, Neston, Runcorn and Wirral.Information on bus and train travel.

Or call Traveline - 0871 200 2233.

Parking:  Ample free parking for cars, coaches and bikes. Coach drop off point outside main entrance. Designated disabled parking spaces.


2. Walk along the Shropshire Union Canal as far as Telford’s Warehouse, Chester ,

Please wait at/near Telfords Warehouse for everyone. Then onto the City Wall heading left towards the Cathedral.  300 yards wall turns 90deg south. Along wall until Duke Street, at end of Duke Street turn right, onto Lower Bridge Street, St.Olaves is 20 yards on the right.


There will be short dedication to St. Olav at the back of the Church, and then we will go to the pub across the road.


Transport back to Ellesmere Port

There are trains from Chester station (about 10-15 minutes walk from St. Olave’s)

NB The car park at Ellesmere Port closes at around 6 so make sure you get back in time!



Liability:  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.

Please be particularly aware of the hazards of the Canal (there will be 2 throw lines available) & the traffic in Chester.  There may be some cyclists on the canal towpath.





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 2012 


Wirral and West Lancashire Viking Research Page.



Enquiries: Steve Harding



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