St Augustine’s in Ramsgate is the destination for a week-long walking pilgrimage called the Augustine Camino and it is attracting people from all over the world. Pilgrims from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Spain and Malta have all walked from Rochester Cathedral to Ramsgate to visit the Shrine of St Augustine and National Pugin Centre. St Augustine’s commemorates the start of the conversion of the English to Christianity in 597 and the work of Augustus Pugin, architect of Big Ben and major influence on the Gothic Revival which gave us such gems as St Pancras Station, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. The Shrine is known for its magnificent stained-glass windows, sculpture and decorative work.
The Augustine Camino is easily spilt into day walks and accessible by car or public transport. It visits two cathedrals, five shrines, monasteries and many beautiful village churches with surprising art and history. One of my favourites is St Mary the Virgin in Minster with its solid Norman Nave and medieval choir stalls. Minster Abbey is always a good stop for a light lunch or tea. Also on the trail is St Andrew’s at Wickhambreaux with its stunning Art Nouveau Annunciation Window and the irresistible Rose Inn just across the Green. Further afield you can visit St Dunstan’s in Canterbury, where the Head of Thomas More is interred or St Nicholas in Harbledown (by appointment only) – originally a leper hospital where the floor is sloped so that it could be washed down after Mass. Also, not to be missed is Aylesford Priory where you can have lunch in an original medieval pilgrim refectory and Doddington church which has a wall painting of St Francis, reputed to be the oldest in the country. All this without even mentioning Canterbury and Rochester Cathedrals. If you haven’t been for a while, you are in for a treat. The recently renovated South Window at Canterbury is one of the greatest examples of medieval glass in the country. It survived the Reformation by being too high up to smash and is now gathered together in an unforgettable display. Meanwhile Rochester, as well as having beautiful stained glass, sculpture and paintings also houses the Textus Roffensis – the oldest laws in the English language. These are King Ethelbert’s Laws. The same Ethelbert converted by Augustine and commemorated throughout Thanet in school and street names.
As well as our important religious and cultural heritage, tourists are attracted by our beautiful countryside, great pubs and the warmth of the welcome. There are many attractions locally that we easily take for granted. Our countryside is remarkably easy and pleasant to walk through. The network of footpaths is extensive, making it simple to get away from the bustle of normal life with a welcoming country pub or café at hand when you need it. The high-speed rail connections and local bus and taxi services make organising a walk straightforward. Now with navigation apps for your mobile phone you don’t even have to be able to read a map! Full details are available at www.augustinecamino.co.uk