SPECIAL PILGRIMAGES is a third-generation family-owned company, with almost 40 years’ experience in organising pilgrimages and trips for parishes, dioceses, and other Christian groups. Destinations are largely Europe-wide or to the Middle East, but also to shrines such as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico.
The company refunded or rebooked their 2020 customers, with the majority of groups rescheduling from the end of 2021. The managing director, Issa Tahhan, hopes that all trips will resume as normal from June this year; the company also has availability for the rescheduled 2022 Oberammergau Passion Play. Holy Land trips are priced from £995 HB, including flights and sightseeing.
The company supports Christian communities, particularly in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It was awarded an outstanding service award from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in 1997. Bookings are ATOL protected.
Contact: Phone 01702 394000, or visit special-pilgrimages.co.uk.
Gold Hill Holidays
SKIING, snowboarding, and walking holidays in Switzerland are Gold Hill’s mainstay. But the family-owned company, established over 30 years, also offers UK-based activity holidays, and biannual trips to Israel (the next in October 2022). The company lost 50 per cent of its ski business in 2020, and Gold Hill’s director, Ruth Beattie, expects to offer half their usual number of ski trips in 2021, with smaller groups and no overlapping of arrivals and departures.
The company is advising customers to book as normal, with the guarantee that any trip cancelled in 2021 because of Covid-19 is fully refundable. Easter is full, but there is availability on other weeks during the 2021 ski season.
A walking holiday in Switzerland is also running 5-15 August this year; so, too, are a number of UK breaks: a surfing and walking camping weekend over the May Bank Holiday; two Wiltshire-based farm-stay camping weekends in July (£30-40 pp FB); a family beach camp near Swanage, Dorset, in August (5 nights, £164 pp FB); and a Farm Fit weekend, in September, featuring running, cycling, swimming, circuits, and cake.
All Gold Hill holidays feature evening Bible studies/talks, with worship and prayer.
Contact: Phone 01753 880753, or visit goldhillholidays.co.uk.
LIGHTLINE arranges tailor-made tours for parish and diocesan groups, many of which are open to others to join. In January 2020, before Covid-19 restrictions hit, they also started marketing bespoke family trips with private drivers. Destinations for groups and families include the Holy Land, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Poland, and trips that follow St Paul’s missionary journeys in Turkey, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Most group tours are led by Anglican or Roman Catholic clergy, and many offer a daily eucharist.
As most of the clients on Lightline’s trips are aged 60-plus, the majority of trips will start running again from October this year. Bespoke family trips are still available. With eyes on 2022, the managing director, Rene Silva, is hoping that they will be running 30 to 40 trips to Israel.
Lightline purposefully supports Christian communities and companies in Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories, and Israel. And a percentage of its profits supports charities in Nablus, Bethlehem, and Gaza. ATOL protected.
Contact: Phone 0845 610 6447, or visit lightline.org.uk.
Norman Allen Group Travel
NORMAN ALLEN, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, is a family-owned company that offers a wide range of tours and tailor-made pilgrimages for church and other groups. Destinations include Israel, Egypt and Jordan, Turkey, Ireland, Armenia and Georgia, Greece, Italy, Spain, and France.
In 2020, trips ran until March, and a few groups managed trips in October. Many tours have rescheduled, with a heavy bias towards the end of 2021. The commercial manager, Andy Holmes, says: “It looks like it will be a very good year,” depending on vaccine rollouts and lockdown restrictions.
The company also specialises in the Oberammergau Passion Play, and is promoting the 2022 season. ABTA and ATOL protected.
Contact: Phone 01432 277666, or visit group-travel.com.
Living the Gospel
LIVING the Gospel (LTG) specialises in offering retreats and journeys connected with Celtic Christianity, mainly in northern England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The company was started in 2000 by the Revd Dr Rob Marshall, in order to offer low-cost trips. Many LTG trips are arranged for church groups, and some are led by Anglican clergy; many are also open to individuals.
Iona is one of the company’s most popular destinations. The island community, a population of only 80 people according to Dr Marshall, suffered greatly from the loss of pilgrims and revenue in 2020. Holy Island, Northumberland, and Whitby are also popular, and have been equally adversely affected by restrictions in the north-east.
Dr Marshall expects tours to be available in September, October, and November 2021, with expectations for 2022 to be near normal. LTG is now a subsidiary of Lightline Pilgrimages. TOPP protected.
Contact: Phone 01992 579 697, or visit livingthegospel.co.uk.
RICHMOND HOLIDAYS is offering summer holidays on the Greek island of Samos, at its Zefiros Beach Hotel resort, from May to October. All resorts are hosted by Richmond’s on-site staff team, and accommodation includes breakfast and dinner, as well as (optional) prayer, worship, and Bible talks led by a Richmond ministry leader.
Richmond HolidaysRichmond Holidays is offering summer fun at the Zefiros Beach Hotel, Samos
Richmond had to repatriate its guests from ski resorts in 2020 owing to coronavirus restrictions, but is currently taking bookings for the new season (starting December 2021) at two chalets in the heart of France’s Three Valleys, with access to pistes for skiers of all levels.
In addition, tours and holidays to Madeira, Israel, Italy, and Croatia are expected to be offered again in 2022. Richmond are Travel Trust Association members, and holidays with flights are ATOL protected.
Contact: Phone 020 3004 2661, or visit richmond-holidays.com.
JOURNEYING is an ecumenical organisation specialising in small-group pilgrim holidays to off-the-beaten-track locations in Britain and Ireland, many with a Celtic connection. Walk leaders are lay and ordained from all denominations, and each day begins and ends with a time of reflective worship.
In 2020, its spring and summer programme had to be cancelled, but some day walks took place.
Its 2021 programme begins with a walking holiday along the Way of St David, a 100km pilgrim route developing in Pembrokeshire, starting 22 May; and includes Croagh Patrick, Ireland, in June; the Lake District, in June; a wildlife conservation pilgrimage, based with the Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland, co-led by head of conservation at A Rocha UK, 10 July; a week on the Isle of Man, in August; and the Irish Camino, developed with Waterford Camino Tours, in September; as well as a series of day walks.
Journeying started out as Pilgrim Adventure in 1988, and is a not-for-profit venture. Virtual pilgrimages will also be running throughout 2021.
Contact: Phone 07896 285839, or visit journeying.co.uk
McCABE specialises in pilgrim holidays for parish and diocesan groups, particularly following St Paul’s journeys and to the Holy Land. Trips from 2020 have largely rebooked into autumn 2021, or spring 2022. The company’s last tour in 2020 was a clergy trip of the Seven Churches Tour of Turkey, with a view to offering clergy-led trips for groups again within the next year or so.
For the past few years, McCabe has also offered a programme of UK short breaks with a pilgrimage theme, including “In the footsteps of the Northern Saints”, five-day tours based in Durham, running 15 July and 9 August this year; and a five-day trip to Mull (with a day in Iona), in June and August. Further afield, the company is running three eight-day Camino de Santiago walking trips in 2021 (16 June; 5 and 12 July). And a new trip to Ireland is likely to be released this year.
In 2022, McCabe have a large booking with the Oberammergau Passion Play, running several seven-day tours, with two or three days in the village (including trips run in conjunction with the Church Times). McCabe holidays include a £15 donation to the McCabe Educational Trust, raising money for Christian-run social-justice projects. ATOL and AITO protected.
Contact: Phone 020 8675 6828, or visit mccabe-travel.co.uk.
TRAVELINK (Tours for Christians) has been specialising in all aspects of travel to the Holy Land since 1983. Travelink focuses on the biblical destinations of Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Egypt. You can book a flight only, join an organised tour, pick a fixed-itinerary package holiday (various itineraries online), or tailor-make a trip.
Organised Bible-land tours include trips geared to church groups; ministry-led tours by Christian leaders, which are open to all; and historical and archaeological tours, led by licensed Holy Land guides.
In 2020, the majority of clients moved their trips into 2021, and the company is hoping that trips will run from this summer. Tours for 2021 include Israel and Jordan, run by the speaker and writer Jeff Lucas, 9-17 November (he will also host a trip to Israel, 4-11 May 2022).
During the pandemic, the company provided lectures and seminars online with archaeologists visiting sites in Israel, which they plan to continue post-pandemic. ATOL and ABTA protected.
Contact: Phone 0208 931 8811 or visit toursforchristians.com
JC JOURNEYS has been arranging trips for Christian groups for the past five years, including pilgrimage sites and new routes related to the saints in Germany, southern France, Greece, and England.
istock The Hermitage Museum: one of the destinations for JC Journeys
The company also offers a selection of creative breaks for individuals/couples. Its “Faith in Art” tours include trips to St Petersburg to see Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and other works in the Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace, as well as a monastery visit (next trip 2-7 December 2021). Its Arctic Retreat visits the Northern Lights in the north of Norway (including husky trip, snowmobiling, and snow shoeing), with the Christian mime artist, photographer, and speaker Steve Murray (next trip, 10-14 February 2022; from £1395 incl. full board and flights).
In 2020, most clients moved their bookings to 2021. New destinations available to groups from May 2021 include Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Northern Spain, Egypt, and Mount Athos in Greece.
All JC Journeys include sightseeing and relaxation time, communal dining, and daily talks and prayers. Accommodation is in family-run hotels and guesthouses, or convent and monastery stays. For individuals, the company also offers a selection of walking trips and bespoke Holy Land tours.
Contact: 01886 812 862; jcjourneys.com.
All details correct at the time of going to press.