Woman who walked from Glasgow to Rome meets pope

A woman who walked from Glasgow to Rome is over the moon after meeting the pope and described the encounter as "unbelievable".

Geraldine McFaul, 54, set off from her home in Scotland at the start of May and arrived in the Italian capital last Saturday.

Ms McFaul's six-month trek saw her averaging around 12 miles a day, travelling through the UK, France, Switzerland and over the Alps.

She has been raising funds for Mary's Meals and Dementia UK during her journey.

At the end of her walking adventure, she was greeted by a welcome party of loved ones who had flown to Italy to celebrate with her.

Ms McFaul attended a general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday alongside her 94-year-old godfather Desmond McGowan and a friend, and was then invited to meet Pope Francis.

The meeting came as a big surprise as she only found out the day before.

Ms McFaul told Sky News: "It was unreal. It was such a surprise, but unbelievable because it was just so unexpected.

"I didn't chat to him, but he was just lovely with a big beaming smile and a big strong handshake.

"It was just so nice. It was amazing just to be so close to him and get to meet him."

The pope was gifted with a parcel that included books from Mary's Meals and a letter from founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, highlighting Ms McFaul's fundraising.

Ms McFaul chose Mary's Meals in memory of her father, Pat, and Dementia UK to acknowledge the support her mother, Agnes, received before she died in April 2022.

She has created JustGiving pages and has raised more than £10,000 for the two charities.

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Years before she set off, Ms McFaul dreamed of walking from Glasgow to Rome. Following the death of her mum, she decided to head out into the great outdoors.

Ms McFaul met new friends along the way and was joined by loved ones on a few occasions.

She said meeting the pope was the highlight of her trip, but added: "The highs - physically and emotionally - was getting to the top of the Alps. I didn't think I would make it."

Ms McFaul struggled at some points due to the warm weather.

She said: "I did have three blocks of heatwave and that just about killed me. But I always told myself 'don't worry about tomorrow, just get through today'."

Ms McFaul praised all those who helped her along the way.

She added: "Even if something was starting to go a bit wonky, somebody would appear just at the right point.

"It never occurred to me to me to come home and it never occurred to me to get a bus or a train and skip bits."

The freelance risk management consultant arrived back in Balornock on Friday and said it would be difficult to ever "top" that trip.

She now intends to spend some time at home and plans to enjoy a few more local - and shorter - walks.