The English Camino

The Augustine Camino is the most characterful and distinctive English Camino. A short hop from London it visits the world famous pilgrimage destination of Canterbury, passing through some of the most beautiful and charming English countryside with its old world pubs and thatched cottages. The Baptism of King Ethelbert by St Augustine is the start of English history. Before that the English were barbarian tribes squatting on the ruins of the Roman Empire. From then on they wrote their own history, developing a distinct culture of laws, art and literature which enriched the world.

The first English pilgrims made their way to the tomb of St Augustine – 500 years before Thomas Becket. By the High Middle Ages Canterbury was a pilgrimage destination of international renown with architecture and artworks to match. Then came the Reformation with much destruction and the banning of, among other things, pilgrimage. However, that is not the end of the story. In the 1830’s there began an attempt to reverse the worst aspects of the Reformation. The Oxford Movement reintroduced ceremony and traditional doctrine to the Anglican Church. Catholic Emancipation in 1829 allowed the reestablishment of monasteries and shrines. This “Second Spring” of the English Church created a unique landscape of beautiful and holy places reflecting Catholic and Reformed sensibilities, something that makes pilgrimage along the Augustine Camino so rewarding.

The Gothic Revival – lead by Augustus Pugin – gave expression to the Second Spring, creating new churches and renovating old ones. Even in medieval cathedrals such as Canterbury and Rochester much of the richness of the experience is Gothic Revival including the choir stalls, stained glass and statues. The revival spread to the smallest village churches, where works of art, worthy of the British Museum, can still be enjoyed in their original settings. The greatest architects and artists of the day worked here, including George Gilbert Scott, William Butterfield and John Loughborough Pearson. The greatest of them all was Augustus Welby Pugin. His Shrine of St Augustine at Ramsgate makes a fitting climax to this very English Camino.