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With just over a fortnight to tackle this ancient path, actor Neil Morrissey, entertainer Debbie McGee, comedian Ed Byrne, singer Heather Small, priest Kate Bottley, journalist Raphael Rowe and TV presenter JJ Chalmers hike through France and northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St James. The group – made up of a variety of faiths and beliefs, including Christian, atheist and humanist – will live as simple pilgrims. But will this journey of a lifetime change the way they think about themselves and their faith?
In this first episode, the pilgrims face one of the most gruelling parts of the Camino de Santiago route – a 26km hike from France into Spain. It sorts the seasoned walkers, like Ed and JJ, from the strollers, such as Neil, who soon realises he might not be prepared for the task ahead. As a former Catholic, and now atheist, Neil soon discovers that the arduous experience is not bringing him any closer to God.
Meanwhile, Kate’s faith takes a knock as she struggles to keep up with the group, whilst Raphael refuses to be swayed by anything religious – in prison he clung to hope, not God, after serving time for a crime he did not commit. For Debbie, she finds solace in a fellow traveller after opening up about the loss of her husband.
As they move along the route through vast mountain ranges and stunning landscapes in France and Spain, the group explores their differing religious beliefs, bond over the physical task and find humour when they realise what living like a simple pilgrim entails.
After a physically testing hike across the spectacular Pyrenees, in the second episode of this three-part travelogue series, the seven pilgrims continue along the famous Camino de Santiago. to their eventual destination will be the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Carrying everything they need on their backs, it has been a mixed start for the group. The physical challenge knocks priest Kate Bottley’s faith, however her mood changes when she discovers a fountain of free-flowing wine – dismissing the notion that through pain comes a better understanding of God. Comedian Ed Byrne also encounters charity when he meets a local man who believes money is the root of all evil and so makes and gives away walking sticks to passing pilgrims.
But things take a turn for the worse when a local helper at a hostel offends singer Heather Small. As the group’s bonds strengthen, presenter JJ Chalmers and actor Neil Morrissey both open up about the traumatic experiences which have shaped their lives.
In memory of her late husband, entertainer Debbie McGee continues to deal with her grief by leaving a stone bearing his name at the foot of the famous Iron Cross. And having rejected all religious and spiritual traditions so far, journalist Raphael Rowe is moved to leave a stone of his own.
As the temperature soars, the pilgrims reach the village where they have to start walking every step of the final 100km to their destination. But will the last stretch bring them closer to their individual beliefs or will the physical challenge defeat them?
In this last episode of the travelogue series, the seven pilgrims are on the final stretch of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. As the temperature reaches record highs, they have to walk every step of the way, getting their pilgrim passport stamped twice a day to prove they have gone the distance.
As they pass through stunning landscapes, nature takes a hold and comedian Ed Byrne and presenter JJ Chalmers embrace the idea of a river pilgrimage by taking a dip in the freezing water within a beautiful wooded valley. After complaining about walking, priest Kate Bottley joins them and discovers that the scenic landscape and tranquil setting also lifts her mood. But living as simple pilgrims has come at a cost: the group is exhausted. Actor Neil Morrissey and singer Heather Small’s snoring means that some chose to sleep outside underneath a peaceful starry night’s sky.
With early starts and long days on the road, entertainer Debbie McGee battles blisters and journalist Raphael Rowe, having spent years in solitary confinement, discovers it is the company of others that is spurring him on. With their final destination still a long way ahead, it is a punishing push to the end.
In just over a fortnight, the group will have travelled over spectacular mountains and hot plains, encountered extraordinary pilgrims from around the world and explored many iconic and spiritual traditions of the Camino de Santiago. But has the experience of walking a medieval pilgrimage meant anything to our modern day pilgrims and can they identify any lasting change within themselves – whether they have faith or not?
A CTVC Production for BBC2
What the Papers Say:
“An engaging and entertaining way to address the kind of spiritual matters that rarely make it to prime time.” **** – The Mail on Sunday
“Touching and comic” – Weekend, (Daily Mail)
“…most interesting is the clash of faith and religious belief which throws up plenty of food for thought” – Daily Mirror
“A rewarding, often entertaining watch with an extra ethical/spiritual/religious dimension.” **** – Radio Times
“A fascinating mix and…entertaining” – Daily Telegraph
“There are some fascinating conversations… (and) touching moments” – The Observer
Best TV Shows of 2018 – Radio Times
In the Top 20 TV picks – Closer Magazine
Pick of the Day – Daily Mail
Pick of the Day – i
TV Choice – Metro
Pick of the Week – The Sunday Times
Very Best of the Week – The Sunday Telegraph
Unmissable TV Show – The Mail on Sunday
Highlighted TV Choice – What’s on TV
Tonight’s Picks – The Sun
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