The National Pilgrimage

The National Pilgrimage- How it came about

In 1938 the Whitsun weekend saw a huge influx of pilgrims to Walsingham to witness the blessing of the much enlarged Shrine Church.  As had become customary, there was a great procession from the Parish Church to the Shrine. It was estimated that the procession took "one hour less three minutes" to pass the Common Place and that 6,000 pilgrims passed through the Holy House. In the report of the weekend in the 1938 Our Lady's Mirror (the forerunner of the present Walsingham Review) the intention was announced to hold a similar day pilgrimage "as an annual event every Whit Monday."

This indeed happened in 1939 and 1940, but then, for the remainder of World War II, the pilgrimage was suspended. 1946 saw its highly successful revival - but pouring rain meant the procession had to be cancelled! The Whit Monday great pilgrimage became known as the "National" in 1959.

In 1971 the Whit Monday bank holiday was moved to the last Monday in May and the National Pilgrimage moved from Whitsuntide to this date. The only cancellations since 1946 was in 2001 because of the Foot and Mouth epidemic and in 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The 2024 National PIlgrimage

Sunday 26th May 2024

9 pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Vigil of Prayer through the night (Shrine Church)

Monday 27th May 2024

12 noon Concelebrated Mass (Abbey Grounds)
Principal Celebrant: The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Blackburn & Master of the Guardians

2.30 pm Sermon, Procession & Benediction (Abbey Grounds)
Preacher: H.E. Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Archbishop of London

6pm Solemn Vespers, Shrine Church

General Information

The two services (12 noon Mass and 2.30 pm Sermon, Procession and Benediction) take place in the grounds of The Abbey. You will need to be inside the Abbey grounds by 11.40am.

Please use the main Abbey archway in the High Street when entering and leaving the grounds. Use of the small Knight's Gate opposite the Shrine Church is restricted to pass-holders.

Seating is not provided for the congregation. Please bring a collapsible chair if you would prefer to not sit on the grass. It is advisable to bring a rug or ground sheet in case of wet weather or damp grass.

There are public toilets by the Abbey archway and inside the grounds. In the Shrine grounds, facilities are available at Norton's Cafe and also next to Reception.

During the lunch break (1.00pm - 2.30pm), pilgrims are welcome to picnic in the Abbey grounds or in the Shrine gardens. You are welcome to bring your own picnic, tables and chairs etc. Norton's Cafe will also be open and will be hosting a Real Ale and Gin Festival with a Barbecue (see further down the page for details). There are also other cafes in the village.

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Parking and Coaches

Car parks are available in the following places and cost around £5.00

  • permanent village car park- near the pump and the Shrine Shop
  • Church Street- by St Mary's Church
  • Wells Road- just north of the war memorial

Coaches should approach Walsingham on what is now the B1155 from Fakenham  to Wells-next-the-Sea (the so-called "dry road"). A right-hand turn at Egmere and then travelling a mile along the Egmere Road,  gives easy access to the Coach Park - members of the Shrine National Pilgrimage Stewarding team will be on duty all day at the Coach Park.

The main High Street and part of Holt Road will be closed to traffic from approximately 11.00 am until after Benediction. Please follow the alternative directions given by the police to get around the village.

Norton's Real Ale and Gin Festival

Norton's is located in the grounds of the Shrine and will be holding a Real Ale and Gin Festival on Sunday 26th and Monday 27th May. There will be local real ales, barbecue and a wide selection of drinks. Sunday there will a barbecue and Monday there will  be a Hog Roast and also hot beef rolls.

The normal menu, cakes and drinks will also be available inside.


Many pilgrims come to Walsingham for the day; others prefer to stay for the weekend. The Shrine accommodation is always fully booked a year in advance - as is RC Pilgrim Bureau - but there are opportunities to rent local cottages for the weekend or the week (school half-term). For further information about Bed and Breakfast establishments and cottage hire contact the local Tourist Board in Walsingham - tel: 01328 820510.


The National Pilgrimage Programme/handbook (cost £5.00 - school children free) contains both information and the services for the day. Do make sure you buy one - it all also serves as your admission pass to The Abbey. They are available from various points in the Shrine and at the entrances to The Abbey - both the High Street archway and the drive gates on the sunken road.

Priests Associate

All Priests Associate of the Holy House who have registered in advance are invited to concelebrate the Mass. They should be in the Shrine Church by 11.20am with an alb and white stole.

Priests Associate who wish to concelebrate at the Pilgrimage Mass should contact Venetia Davies to register by 8th May 2024. 

(See Membership - Priests Associate for details of becoming a Priest Associate)

The Shrine Church

The Shrine Church will not be available to pilgrims after 11 am to allow for preparations for the procession and will then be locked until after the Mass. For security reasons it will be locked again between 2.20pm and the conclusion of Benediction in the Abbey grounds.


Pilgrims in wheelchairs have an area reserved for them near the altar. Stewards will give directions.

BSL Interpretation - the worship is signed and a special area is reserved near the altar for those who wish to take advantage of this. Stewards will give directions.

Young Pilgrims

Changing and feeding facilities for babies are available. Please ask a steward for directions.

For young pilgrims and their families there will be activities in the marquee in the Abbey grounds (left of the altar as you face it) from 1pm until after the 2.30pm service.

Children must be accompanied by an adult until the 2.30pm service begins and children under the age of 5 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

All young pilgrims are also invited to take part in the procession and will join it after the sermon and will then return to the area outside the tent to be together for the remainder of the service. Please collect your children promptly after the service finishes.

Activity packs will be available from 11.30am for use during the 12.00pm Mass and also for those children who would prefer to remain with their parents/carers.

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Ministries of Healing

The Ministries of Healing will be available from 1.15pm until 2.00pm

Sprinkling with water from the Well will take place in the Abbey Grounds.Laying on of Hands and Anointing will be in the Shrine Church and priests will be available to hear Confessions in the Reconciliation Rooms on the right hand side of the Shrine Church. (The lights above the Guardians’ Stalls indicate when a priest is available green: available; red: engaged).

First Aid

Members of the St John's Ambulance will be on duty. In an emergency please get assistance from one of the Stewards.

You can view the photographs from the 2023 National Pilgrimage by clicking here