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Spencer Matthews remembers late brother Michael during special journey that 'changed' him

Spencer Matthews' older brother died aged 22 while climbing Everest

Spencer Matthews is set to appear in the new BBC show
Emily Horan
Entertainment Editor
5 April 2024
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Spencer Matthews, by his own admission, is not a particularly emotional person. But standing on a beautiful beach in Aberdaron while filming BBC series Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales, the podcaster and TV personality was hit by a wave of sentiment as he thought of his late brother.

“We had to pick up a stone from the beach, label it with the name of somebody who has departed and stand and communicate with that person,” says Spencer, whose elder sibling Michael died while climbing Mount Everest in 1999, when Spencer was ten.

WATCH: Vogue Williams and Spencer Matthews enjoy special family trip to Disneyland Paris

“I found a beautiful rock and wrote ‘Michael’ on it and shared a moment with my brother, which was really special.”

The three-part series sees the 35-year-old embark on a moving modern-day pilgrimage in North Wales with six other well-known people of differing faiths and beliefs, including TV presenter Michaela Strachan, comedian Eshaan Akbar and Friday Night Dinner actor Tom Rosenthal. 

Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales sees Spencer Matthews joined by Michaela Strachan, Amanda Lovett, Christine McGuiness, Eshaan Akbar, Tom Rosenthal and Sonali Shah© Production
Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales sees Spencer Matthews joined by Michaela Strachan, Amanda Lovett, Christine McGuiness, Eshaan Akbar, Tom Rosenthal and Sonali Shah

In a journey taking two weeks, the hardy pilgrims travel a 135-mile route that is linked by churches dedicated to early Celtic Christian saints and ends at Bardsey Island, the fabled “Island of 20,000 Saints”, off the western tip of the country’s Llŷn Peninsula.

It was “an enlightening journey”, says Spencer, who shares three children – Theodore, five, Gigi, three, and Otto, who turns two this month – with his TV presenter wife Vogue Williams. “The whole experience made me feel even happier to be alive.”

Vogue, Theodore, Gigi© Instagram
Spencer with his children Theodore and Gigi

Describing himself as a “spiritual person, but not particularly tied to any kind of religion”, Spencer went into the pilgrimage with a “completely open mind”, but even he wasn’t expecting it to have as much impact as it did.

“The highlight was meeting new people and I picked up some new friends along the way,” says the star, who came away transformed. "I learnt about fasting from [journalist and presenter] Sonali Shah. I did a 24-hour fast while filming, to show solidarity with Jainism, which is an ancient religion. That has changed the way I eat since filming – I still fast, so I have taken that with me.”

Spencer opened up about his journey© Production
Spencer opened up about his journey

Spencer also found himself drawn to spirituality and religion, and has since read several books on the topics.

“My horizons have been broadened and I’m far more interested in faith in general,” he says. “I probably felt drawn most to Buddhism on that trip. I’ve never believed that when you die, you just die. And it was nice to spend time with Buddhists who also believe that this life just happens to be where we are at the moment.

“I also discovered thin space,” he continues. “A thin place is said to be the area between earth and heaven. It’s that feeling you feel when you see a beautiful sunrise or sunset or a shooting star, or even a gust of wind if you’re running and you feel aided by something else.

Spencer on his show Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales© Production
Spencer on his show Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales

“We experienced some thin spaces, particularly when we finished the pilgrimage and were staring at Bardsey Island. We felt bonded by the experience that we had had.” Spencer has long been committed to looking after his body – he is training for a world- record endurance run, helping him be “the healthiest I have ever been” – but he says the pilgrimage has made him “very conscious of health and wellness now”.

These are lessons he has undoubtedly brought home to his family, during a busy time for Spencer and Vogue, 38, who married on his family’s Glen Affric estate in the Scottish Highlands in the summer of 2018.

The pair recently sold their former home in Vogue’s native Ireland and are finishing renovations to their new Dublin pad, where Vogue has said the family plan on spending more of the school holidays. They were there last week for the final dates of their Spencer & Vogue podcast tour around Ireland.

Vogue Williams and Spencer Matthews smiling
Vogue and Matthew's sweet selfie

Never ones to settle for a quiet life, the pair haven’t ruled out the prospect of adding to their lively household.

“There is always a possibility of more kids,” Spencer said recently. “There are no immediate plans, but it’s one of those where, on some days, it feels like the best idea ever and on others it doesn’t, when you’re juggling three school drop-offs and wondering if there’s room for another.” However, he added: “We couldn’t be more fortunate with the family we have and we’re completely delighted."

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