Pilgrimage: The Road To Santiago – we had the greatest time say seven celebs

It's one thing leading a group of celebs on an arduous trek, but it's another to ask them to reevaluate their faith. The seven stars of BBC Two's Pilgrimage: The Road To Santiago talk to Gemma Dunn and reflect on their experience

Neil Morrissey, Ed Byrne, Debbie McGee, Raphael Rowe, JJ Chalmers, the Rev Kate Bottley and Heather Small at the start of their journey on The Road to Santiago
Neil Morrissey, Ed Byrne, Debbie McGee, Raphael Rowe, JJ Chalmers, the Rev Kate Bottley and Heather Small at the start of their journey on The Road to Santiago

BBC Two's new three-part travelogue series, Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago, invites seven famous faces to live as modern-day pilgrims as they set out on the Camino de Santiago.

With just over a fortnight to tackle this ancient path, actor Neil Morrissey, entertainer Debbie McGee, comedian Ed Byrne, singer Heather Small, the Rev Kate Bottley, journalist Raphael Rowe and TV presenter JJ Chalmers journey 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 – will live simply, staying in traditional hostels and carrying everything they need on their backs. But will this "spiritual" journey change the way they think about themselves and their faith?


:: Neil Morrissey (55)

I was looking forward to seeing new surroundings. I hadn't been to Galicia before, so was looking forward to seeing the area, and then, of course, the cathedral. I was also looking forward to the companionship.

:: Ed Byrne (45)

I was looking forward to a decent walk. I'm a big fan of hiking so I was looking forward to a bit of scenery and maybe some outdoor adventuring.

:: Heather Small (53)

I was just open and I always wanted to do a pilgrimage, so when I got the chance I thought I would learn something, either about myself or my faith.

:: Debbie McGee (59)

I wanted to find out what previous pilgrims had found so enlightening.

:: The Rev Kate Bottley (43)

I was hoping to meet great people, have conversations and find out more about myself. I also wanted to understand why people would put themselves through something so physically tough in order to find enlightenment.

:: Raphael Rowe (49)

I wanted to experience a challenge like I've never encountered before. The physical and mental ask of walking the Camino provides just that and the restrictions, in terms of belongings and accommodation, made the adventure an exciting and bonding experience.

:: JJ Chalmers (30)

It was an opportunity to go on an adventure. I've learned in life you say "yes" and find out what the question is later – that's got me into the best and worst situations of my life, but it's got me into being here right now.


NM: Not really, if anything it compounded my own humanism and atheism. But I can recognise the sense of achievement people on the pilgrimage trail must feel, and how important it is to them.

EB: Can't say that it did. I think, as we get older, we get more settled in our beliefs or lack thereof. I don't think anybody's beliefs were impacted particularly strongly.

HS: I was a believer before I set off, but this trip made me realise my faith and beliefs were much stronger than I had realised.

DM: Not at the time, but it made me think about my faith afterwards.

KB: I was hoping to find a revelation, some sort of home on the Camino. But I didn't find it in the walk, I found it in my companionship with the people next to me.

RR: The pilgrimage reinforced my belief that faith is a personal journey that comes in many different shapes and sizes. The journey left me as confused about religion and faith as I felt before.

JC: It didn't change my beliefs, but if anything it confirmed to me that I will never be sure of what I truly believe - and that's all right.


NM: Probably what surprised me the most and also the thing I enjoyed the most, was the commonality of the experience while on the walk itself. The shared community feeling with everyone you meet, wherever you go.

EB: There was one evening when myself, JJ and Neil made dinner for everyone - and while we were chopping the spuds, Neil told us about his childhood. I'd met Neil before and I knew he grew up in care, but I didn't realise just how rough his upbringing was.

HS: Sometimes you feel like you could always do better - with everything. I think that where I am in my faith and how I live my faith, the day-to-day beliefs that I have and how I treat people, I'm closer to that than I expected.

DM: I could rough it with more ease than I would have expected.

KB: I didn't expect to meet quite so many people doing it that weren't doing it for religious reasons – I expected everybody on the Camino to be doing it because they wanted to get closer to God.

RR: I was scared of what I might pick up along the way, religiously. But I was surprised. OK I didn't go into the chapels or the churches, but I wasn't as fearful of discovering why people are so faithful or religious.

JC: It was interesting to get to know my fellow travellers – especially who you think you know because you have seen them on the telly! My overarching memory of it was how much we laughed. We had the greatest time and that was absolutely it, embodied.

:: Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago starts on BBC Two on Friday