Pilgrimage, review: this batch of faith-finding celebs were nice – but where was the interrogation?

So far, Pilgrimage (BBC Two) has sent mismatched bands of celebrities on the long road to religious enlightenment in Santiago, Rome and Istanbul. Now it’s back, and this time their spiritual path is rather more familiar, leading them through Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland – pegged to the sixth-century monk St Columba.

Cue the oh-so-British chat about inclement weather while peering out stoically from beneath the hoods of sensible macs. Well, all except for Changing Rooms design guru Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who modelled a specially designed rain-proof suit. Although if his silk scarf also survives 15 days of incessant drizzle, that really will be a miracle.

Llewelyn-Bowen is one of the questioners of the pack. He roughly identifies as Pagan, and doesn’t believe there’s one supreme being. But he’s genuinely curious about his fellow pilgrims’ faiths. As is Nick Hewer, who can quote Thomas Aquinas with aplomb, but whose time in a strict Jesuit boarding school left him agnostic. However, now an age at which such theoretical questions might become more urgent, he is, he proclaimed, “a soul for sale”, as if making a pitch on The Apprentice. “You can have four wives in my religion,” offered Muslim comedian Shazia Mirza.

Like all reality shows, it’s the hotch-potch of celebrities that makes for entertaining viewing, although Pilgrimage nudges them towards harmony, not hair-pulling acrimony. But we did get tears twice in this opener: Jewish actress Louisa Clein, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, felt isolated when they attended a Catholic mass, while Gogglebox’s Scarlett Moffatt – the star of the first instalment – became upset when the others joked about Christian artefact the Stone of Sorrows.

Interestingly it’s Moffatt, the youngest of the group, who has the most ardent conviction. She wears a cross from her visit to Jerusalem and says her Christianity got her through dark times – although she also describes God as “a big man with a beard in the sky controlling everything, like the ultimate Sims game”. Still, it’s interesting to hear a millennial confessing that she struggles to talk about religion, fearing there’s a stigma attached.

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