A WORLD renowned pilgrimage route between Reading and Southampton has been revived with new signage, in time for the Feast of St James.

The 68-mile UK leg of St James' Way begins at the Church of St James in Reading and runs through the Hampshire countryside, Alresford and Winchester to God’s House Tower (GHT) in Southampton.

Hannah Preston, venue manager at God’s House Tower said: “We’re delighted to be supporting this project and all those who are still engaging with this fascinating part of GHT's history.

“As well as the pilgrim stamp which walkers can collect on arrival at GHT we’ll be issuing a completion certificate to congratulate those who have made the pilgrimage from Reading to Southampton.

“We hope these visitors enjoy their visit to GHT in its most recent guise as it is today, learning its history as well as enjoying its contemporary offer as an art gallery, heritage venue and friendly meeting place.”

St James’ Way follows the footsteps of the medieval pilgrims who would have visited Reading Abbey in the 13th and 14th centuries to see the Hand of St James the Apostle, a disciple of Christ and one of the most respected saints for Christians.

The walk takes about five days to complete in full, starting from Reading Abbey. The pilgrims travelled through modern-day West Berkshire to Southampton, before continuing to Camino de Santiago in north western Spain, where the cathedral holds the tomb of St James.

More than 500 new modern way markers have been placed in time for the Feast of St James which was celebrated on July 25.

Volunteers from the Confraternity of St James (CSJ), with support from the A Coruña Province Council and the Galicia Regional Government in Spain implemented the markers to help pilgrims, walkers, and families who set out along the route to enjoy their experience and keep on track.

David Sinclair, a CSJ volunteer overseeing the operational side of the waymarking project, said: “This mammoth project to firmly establish the St. James’ Way as a UK Camino has been an aim of the CSJ for over 30 years. We hope this initiative opens the path for many individuals to put on their walking gear this summer and, as a pilgrim, discover the St. James’ Way.”

Councillor Kaur, leader of Southampton City Council, said: “We’re really pleased to support the St James' Way pilgrimage waymarked route between Reading and Southampton, as part of the world-renowned route to Camino de Santiago.

“Historically, Southampton is known as a City of Sanctuary and gateway to the world – a role which we continue to play today. It’s very exciting that people will also be able to visit our treasured God’s House Tower – a unique arts and heritage venue that has been recently reimagined and refurbished.

“Thank you to everyone involved in making this happen, and we here in Southampton really look forward to welcoming new and diverse visitors to our wonderful city.”

GO! Southampton's executive director Stephen Manion said: “We are delighted this exciting and very special pilgrimage route is being revived and that we will be welcoming walkers once again, a connection which is steeped in history from when medieval pilgrims boarded ships to travel to Spain. Travellers would have rested in the port and been revived by local hospitality before embarking on their spiritual journey.

“Our city offers a warm welcome and invites those walking the St James' Way to take the time to explore our city centre, immerse themselves in its centuries of heritage by walking the medieval walls, visiting the unique historic sites and be refreshed by Southampton’s wide range of accommodation and extensive choice of restaurants and cafes, before continuing on their personal pilgrimage.”

The Feast of St James, the patron saint of Santiago and all of Spain, is a huge celebration in modern-day Galicia. In medieval times, a fair in Reading would last four days and attract pilgrims and traders to the town ahead of the feast.

Before setting off on the modern-day pilgrimage, walkers can obtain a guide to St. James’ Way and a pilgrim passport from either the Confraternity of St. James or Reading Museum.

Pilgrim stamps are available at the departure and end points as well as churches and 13 pubs along St James’ Way.