A TINY Scottish village has become one of the world’s leading pilgrimage sites.
Luss, a village found on Loch Lomond in Argyll and Bute, has been named as a founding member of the Green Pilgrimage Network.
This network is a global collective which aims to reduce the environmental impact of travellers converging on sites of worship.
Luss, the former set for the TV soap Take The High Road, is now part of a 12-strong network which includes the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the
birthplace of St Francis of Assisi in Italy- a Christian pilgrimage site for 1500 years.
The village now has a new project set up to involve young people from across the world in building the pilgrimage pathway along the banks of the loch to Iona, one of Scotland’s other great religious centres.
A sustainable traffic system is also planned for all paths and roads used by pilgrims to avoid any overcrowding of the village.
Visitors are also encouraged to minimise water use and dispose of all their own rubbish.
Luss will be used as an example in the future for other communities in how to deal with religious tourism and the impact on the environment.
The network was launched by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which was founded by Prince Philip and helps major religions around the world to develop environmental programmes.
Reverend Dane Sherrard, the Church of Scotland minister who helped secure Luss its place in the network, said it was “crazy” to think that such an honour has been given to a “wee
church on the banks of Loch Lomond.”
He said: “It’s mind blowing to think that we are in the same company as some of the world’s most famous pilgrimage sites.
“I was in Assisi at the first meeting of the network and I found myself sitting next to the Sikh who is in charge of the Golden Temple where they feed 100,000 pilgrims a day using volunteer labour.
“It’s a colossal opportunity that’s been given to us in Luss. It’s something that has taken us by surprise but it is a glorious opportunity.”
The village already attracts 750,000 visitors a year and has been a place of Christian pilgrimage since St Kessog, an Irish missionary arrived there at the start of the sixth century.
St Kessog was Scotland’s first patron saint and built a monastery on Inchtavannoch, a nearby island during his stay.
St Albans Cathedral is the only other British entry in the network and can be found on the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the UK.
It is located where Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was buried after giving his life for his faith over 1700 years ago.
However, Luss is better known for being the set of the fictional village of Glendarroch on Tv’s Take The High Road which ran on STV from 1990-2003.
Most of the exterior shots were set in the community, on the west bank of the loch and featured the village’s cottages, arts and craft shops and cafes.
Roddy McCuish, council leader, said the scheme to rebrand Luss as the country’s first place of green pilgrimage would encourage visitors to one of the region’s “most picturesque communities.”
He said: “We are delighted to endorse Luss Parish Church’s membership of the Green Pilgrimage Network.
“It is fantastic that an Argyll and Bute community is among the first in the world to pioneer this unique approach, which offers marvellous opportunities for the area.
“Not only will it promote conservation and provide educational opportunities, it will also to encourage visitor to Luss, which is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque communities in a stunning setting.”
Faith-based tourism is one of the fastest growing businesses in the world and many countries have become overwhelmed by the number of visitors and the damaging effects they can have to the local environment.
The Green Pilgrimage Network aim to help the sites to cope with the growing numbers of visitors.