Pilgrims ride 200 miles for charity

A Scottish charity gathered pilgrims and horses to journey over 200 miles across Columba’s Way to raise funds for charity.

The Big Hoof raised £6,500 on its journey, bringing more than 40 people together from St Andrews to Iona to raise funds for individuals suffering from issues such as addiction, alcoholism, and social isolation.

The charity previously organised a ride across Scotland from John O’Groats to Land’s End (2020), raising over £36,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Louis Hall, who runs The Big Hoof, said the idea to use Columba’s Way was the historical significance and belonging the route brought to the event.

“Following upon the footsteps of the man that helped to unite Scotland and spread Christianity throughout, one feels a sense of belonging and unity to where it is we have come from,” he said.

“This added layer of historical significance allows the journey to be that bit more connecting: bringing people together, from all walks of live, upon a trail made over 1,000 years ago.”

The charity also hosted a ride across Europe this year, which raised £24,000 for Ukrainian refugees.

Mr Hall said the pilgrimages fostered a ‘sense of community’.

“The simplicity of moving together to a given destination, for spiritual and personal reasons, can powerfully reveal how important the little steps in life are,” he said.

The journey began riding on 3rd July from St Andrews and ended on the 15th in Iona, with pilgrims both walking and riding.

Some of the pilgrims were people who had benefited from Venture Trust, the charity the group was raising funds for.

After fireworks, ceilidh dancing, and some rest for the horses at Loch Tay, the group rode to Craig Lodge, a Catholic retreat house.

“In the morning we then moved together towards Taynuilt and then, the final day with horses, was spent travelling along the serene and stunning Glen Lonan road towards Oban,” he said.

“After a night in Oban, we left the horses at a farm and jumped on the ferry to Mull. We cycled the whole way across Mull before reaching Fionnphort, the far west side of the island, where we took a short ferry to the magical island of Iona.”

The equestrians endured periodic bouts of heavy rain throughout the journey, however Mr Hall said the sun ‘shone and there were blue evening skies for our arrival’.

“We celebrated with a big supper at the St Columba Hotel before attending a service in St Columba’s Abbey,” he said.

Mr Hall founded The Big Hood in 2020 after riding down the length of the UK in memory of his friend Leo, who died of Cystic Fibrosis. 

Since then, the charity has raised over £80,000 for different causes.

Mr Hall said the The Big Hoof ‘promotes adventure and wellbeing through the power of the horse.’

“Through our long distance rides we aim to bring people together, have an adventure into the outdoors, and raise money for a local organisation,” he said.

To find out more about The Big Hoof, click here.

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