BBC Two Unveils Cast of Pilgrimage Season Six


The seven celebrity cast members of the sixth season of BBC Two’s Pilgrimage, tentatively titled Pilgrimage: The Road to Wild Wales, have been unveiled.

Taking part in a journey along a route that celebrates early Celtic Christian saints are wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan, former reality TV star Spencer Matthews, journalist and TV presenter Sonali Shah, comedian Eshaan Akbar, The Traitors’ Amanda Lovett, actor Tom Rosenthal and TV personality and former model Christine McGuinness.

They all have varying levels of faith and spirituality. Strachan places her faith in the natural world. Matthews was christened in the Church of England but is still searching for answers to life’s big question. Shah was raised in a Jain household. Akbar is a lapsed Muslim. Lovett is a practicing Catholic. Rosenthal calls himself “areligious.” And McGuinness considers herself spiritual but doesn’t practice one particular faith.

The seven pilgrims will follow the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, created in 2011, which is linked by ancient churches dedicated to sixth- and seventh-century saints but also takes pilgrims through places of natural beauty in the mountain ranges of Eryri and the North Wales coast.

The pilgrims will travel for two weeks on foot and by bus, starting their 220-kilometer journey at Flint Castle on the bank of the Dee Estuary and following the coastal path to Greenfield Valley and the official start of the pilgrim way. They will then face challenging paths and climbs as they tackle the foothills of mountain ranges in North Wales and take on England and Wales’ highest peak, Yr Wydffa. They’ll sleep in basic accommodations, from a caravan to a climbers’ hut.

Their final destination is Bardsey Island, or Ynys Enlli, a popular destination among early Christian monks and hermits, who belied it was the end of the world and a place where the distance between heaven and Earth becomes intangible and thus a place of guaranteed resurrection.

The 3×60-minute season is produced by CTVC. The seven pilgrims each commented on why they chose to join the pilgrimage.

“A pilgrimage is when you walk and sleep on church floors and eat dead rats and stuff, which I’m looking forward to,” Matthews said. “I’d be pretty low in the faith knowledge bracket, but I’m on a quest to broaden my knowledge and religious horizons. I’m an open mind, an open book. I want to learn about different faiths, cultures and religions and develop a firm understanding of my faith and how it can potentially play a larger role in my life.”

“Since my autism diagnosis, it’s really made me want to grab opportunities with both hands,” explained McGuinness. “I want to say yes to more things, things that I would always say no to, because I find socializing quite awkward. I don’t really like being pushed out of my comfort zone , but I’m realizing more and more that I want to live, I want to do more things, I want to have good memories, I want to make friends, I want to learn more about other people, and the only way I can do that is by pushing myself a bit.”

Strachan commented, “I think this pilgrimage is going to be really good for me. These days we all tend to live busy, complicated lives, and what I love about walking is all you’ve got to think about is putting one foot in front of the other. I find it very cathartic; it’s my form of meditation. There’s a simplicity to just walking. Walking, thinking, taking time to connect with nature. I guess that’s my form of spiritual engagement.”

“They say that if you go on a pilgrimage, there’s a hope that by the end of it there will have been some sort of realization, so I’m looking forward to finding mine,” Lovett said. “I do have a strong Catholic faith. I still pray, and I believe there’s an afterlife, but I’m excited to explore other people’s faiths and religions and how they view life. I’ve always been the mum, the gran, the worker, and I sort of forgot about me. I’ve done school runs for 32 years, and I’ve found my time now. I’m looking forward to learning about myself, digging deep and processing and seeing how I’ll evolve in the future.”

“Why am I doing this pilgrimage? I’ll be honest, I think it’ll be fun, believe it or not,” Akbar said. “I’m not a great fan of walking without a purpose; I don’t like hikes, I don’t like going up and down different types of terrain, I don’t like sleeping in uncomfortable situations. My immigrant parents worked way too hard for me to start fetishizing poverty by choosing to make my life too difficult. I’m really looking forward to the experience, but I can’t promise that I won’t moan for most of it.”

Shah explained, “It felt like the opportunity of going on a pilgrimage like this came at the right time in my life. I grew up in a liberal Jain, East Africa-Indian household in Northwest London, where faith, race and culture were very intertwined. While I have always been comfortable with who I am and the way I live, in recent years, with my kids asking more questions, I realized that using the word agnostic hasn’t been quite right. I was also curious about what, if anything, I could add to the party as someone who was born into a faith that many people have never heard of.”

“I’ve always been interested by anybody with any thoughts as to what it is we are all doing here,” added Rosenthal. “It’s fairly confusing, and if I spend all my time watching Arsenal and the The Traitors, I’m never going to find out. Dedicating myself to a pilgrimage for two weeks is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon my spirituality and to make a TV show my grandmother will actually enjoy watching.”

Daisy Scalchi, BBC’s head of religion and ethics for television, commented, “Pilgrimage is a series like no other, getting into the heart and soul of who we are and what makes life meaningful. All seven pilgrims embraced the journey wholeheartedly, with extraordinary honesty and generosity toward one another. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking to watch.”

“This is one of the strongest series we’ve ever made—the pilgrims immersed themselves fully in the experience with extraordinary results,” added Caroline Matthews, executive producer and CEO at CTVC. “I echo what Christine said: Pilgrimage has been insane!”