Olsok: St. Olav's Wirral-Chester Viking Heritage walks

Infomal short walks in conjunction with Wirral's Viking Trail, The Unknown Vikings (Chester re-eneactment group), Wirral Archaeology CIC, the Grosvenor Museum, the Municipality of Trondheim and BBC Radio Merseyside


St Olave’s Church, Chester drawing from Holme in 1660 with tower in the syle of a Norwegian “Stave Church”.
Courtesy of ShoutWiki and the Bodleian Library, Oxford


17th ANNUAL WALKS 2024

The following two walks are planned for July 28th and 29th July (St. Olav’s Day) 2024

  • Walk 1: Sunday 28th July: Piladall-Raby Viking border area walk (details to be announced in June)
  • Walk 2: Monday 29th July 6pm: Viking Chester (meet at St. John’s Church) – approx 2 mile. This year's walk will be hosted once again by the St. John’s based re-enactment group Unknown Vikings and led by Ragnhildr and Halfdan/Bishop Grimkeld.  Finish: St. Olave’s Church. 


The St. Olav's Wirral-Chester Viking Heritage walks - started in conjunction with the Grosvenor Museum in Chester and the Municipality of Trondheim in 2008 after a pilot walk in 2007, take place at the end of July, and 2024 will be the 17th year of the walks.   They celebrate Wirral and Chester's great Viking tradition, started by Norsemen led by Ingimund, who, in and after AD902 "settled in great numbers".  The walks also commemorate Norway's patron saint St Olav whose life and works are celebrated across Scandinavia, particularly in Norway.    Every year around St. Olav's Day (29th July) Norwegians commemorate him with a series of events including several walks which go to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim where he is buried.  

There is also a St. Olave's church in Chester originating from the Viking Age, St. Bridget's Church in West Kirby - also founded by the Vikings - with a dedication to St. Olav (stain glass window) and many fine Viking Age stone artefacts including one of two Viking hogbacks found on Wirral; and in between another church with strong Viking Age connections - the Church of St Mary and St Helen at Neston with fragments from at least 3 Viking Age Crosses one of which - the wonderful "Viking Lady" cross - has been beautifully reconstructed as a replica & displayed with the artefacts at the front of the church.  

In partnership with Trondheim the centre of the main "Olsok" Festival, Wirral and Chester also commemorate St Olav with walks near St Olav's Day, and are designed to complement the events in Norway and Scandinavia.  The background behind these Wirral-Chester St. Olav Viking Heritage walks is described in The Norseman magazine.   Many people have enjoyed the envigoration of these walks, including BBC Television’s Michael Wood (2011) - click this link to view the broadcast, and BBC's Tom Pinfold from the series Tudor Monastery Farm (2013): we hope you would like to join us too! 


BBC’s Michael Wood (left) joins us on the 2011 walk   

Please email Steve & Sue of Wirral's Viking Trail or Katherine Brown of the Unknown Vikings (St. Johns, Chester based Viking re-enactment group) if you would like to attend any of the walks. Please note that both walks are limited to a maximum of 50 people. The walks are free, but in common with the main St. Olav’s walks in Norway, people/pilgrims come at their own risk. We merely provide a guide.



Maps adapted from/courtesy of Geographia Ltd and Geographers A-Z map company

***Please bring adequate footwear, rain protection if the forecast is inclement, a face mask, and water and refreshments***

***We would like to stress again that in common with the main St. Olav’s walks in Norway please note that all walkers/pilgrims do so at their own risk.  The organisers merely provide a guide***

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.


Radio/TV/Youtube Broadcasts from earlier walks:
Radio City 2008 walk - with Simon O’Brien
BBC2 – The Great British Story, 2011 walk – with Michael Wood
BBC Radio Merseyside 2014 walk – with Sean Styles and Mark Geyer
BBC Radio Merseyside 2016 walk – with Paul Beesley       
BBC Radio Merseyside 2017 walk – with Tony Snell
BBC Radio Merseyside 2018 walk – with Sean Styles
BBC Radio Merseyside 2020 walk – with Lisa Marrey
BBC Radio Merseyside 2021 walk – with Sean Styles

Article in the Norseman Magazine, January/February 2009
Olsok: St. Olaf's pilgrimage in Norway produced by Trondheim Kommune
National Day (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
Wirral and West Lancashire Viking Page
Wirral's Viking Trail: download pdf



Enquiries: Steve of Wirral's Viking Trail or Text 078110 90635 (International texts: +44 78110 90635)


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