Celtic Camino

The Celtic Camino

While the popular Camino routes now almost exclusively cover just Spain and Portugal, it certainly wasn’t always like this. For hundreds of years, those wishing to enter the hallowed gates of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela began their Camino journey from their own front door.

These individual journeys eventually merged into well-trodden paths, some routes stretched east, into France, Germany and beyond – while those coming from further north, took a route that is still in use today.

The Camino Ingles is a route that links Ferrol and A Coruña, two cities that lie on the northern Galician coast, with Santiago de Compostela further south. While Ferrol is the necessary 100km from Santiago to gain a Compostela certificate, A Coruña is 25km short – meaning you need to do a bit of walking before you arrive in Spain.

This brings us to the Celtic Camino, a broad term coined by the Camino Society Ireland that includes nine separate walking routes around Ireland all of which provide at least the necessary 25 km before you set foot in Northern Spain.

The Celtic Camino is unique in that it combines a traditional Camino route with a much more personalized experience closer to home. But in many ways, this was exactly how pilgrimages originating in Ireland were done for hundreds of years, as pilgrims left their homes and made their way to ports where a boat would eventually carry them south, through the rough Celtic Sea, to the spectacular northern coast of Spain.

For those looking to walk the Camino Ingles, you’ll need to begin in either A Coruña or Ferrol. Coruña is certainly more accessible with regular flights from both Dublin and Belfast, but if you have your heart set on completing the full journey, you can take the train from Coruña to Ferrol, which takes roughly an hour and a half.

After completing the Camino Ingles, the easiest way to return is from the airport in Santiago de Compostela, though Santiago and A Coruña are only 30 minutes apart by train, which makes a return flight from Coruña probably the most economical option.

For more information on train travel between the three cities, check out the Renfe website.

Where do I get a pilgrims passport for the Celtic Camino?

Getting a pilgrims passport is easy and can be obtained either online through the Camino Society Shop here or in person at several locations. More details can be found on the Your Pilgrim Passport page on their website.

How do I get the stamps required? 

There is a trust system in place here and authorised Camino stamps can be found at the start and the end of all of the Celtic Camino routes listed here. Just stamp your passport before you set off, and again when you finish.

Lastly, your passport will need to be verified at the Information Centre in Dublin, though if you’re unable to visit, you can contact them at info@caminosociety.ie. Once this is in place, you’re ready for your journey to Spain.

Should I start in Ferrol or A Coruña?

You can start at either, though bear in mind that Ferrol is an extra 25 km. If you do decide to start further away from Santiago, your total distance will already be over 100 km, meaning you don’t technically need to do any walking in Ireland – but with so many splendid walks available, why not do one as well.

Can I do the Camino alone?

Absolutely. The route along the Camino is very safe and you are guaranteed to make friends along the way. Some would even argue that doing the Camino alone adds an entirely different dimension to the walk than if you were with a group of friends.

What is the accommodation like?

Most of the accommodation that we use along the Camino are 2* or 3* hotels or pensions, with the occasional 4*, all of which are either directly on the Camino or close by and each room comes with private facilities.

What do we do about luggage?

That’s the beauty of U Walk. Each morning we’ll take care of your luggage and make sure it’s waiting for you when you arrive at your next destination. It really couldn’t be easier. We do suggest using a small backpack during the day for water, snacks, waterproofs, a first-aid kit, sun cream, a change of socks and whatever else you might want to carry along.

How can I avoid getting blisters?

Unfortunately, blisters are a common occurrence on the Camino or any other long-distance hiking route for that matter. We recommend bringing some plasters and a few Compeed Blister Pads which can be applied directly over a blister when it’s emerging. The best way to avoid a blister is to make sure you’re using good quality footwear that is both properly fitting and broken in.

There are nine walking routes that the Camino Society Ireland recommends for the Irish section of the Celtic Camino. These range hugely in distance, with the shortest being 25 km, and the longest a hefty 111km.

Remember that extra walking in Ireland is only needed if you are planning to walk from A Coruña to Santiago de Compostela, which falls below the required 100 km. Then again, even if you’re starting from Ferrol, what better way to get a few training walks in before Spain along one of Ireland’s many spectacular hiking routes.

Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail – 63km

This 63 km route in County Mayo connects the villages of Balla and Murrisk, ending on the west coast on the shores of Clew Bay. A mixture of paths along minor roads and forest trails, the route travels through a spectacular and unspoilt landscape and passes numerous sites of archaeological significance, including the iconic limestone monument dedicated to the memory of Patrick William Nally and the ruins of an old abbey.

For more information – Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail

 

Tóchar Phádraig – 35 km

This ancient pilgrim path was once a chariot road that connected Rathcruachan with Aughagower and Cruachan Aille, as Croagh Patrick was once known. It became a popular pilgrimage route after the 13th Century, with many choosing it to ascend the looming Croagh Patrick at a height of 764 metres.

Today the route connects Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick and provides the setting for a splendid walk that can be completed in a single day, or comfortably broken into.    

For more information – Tóchar Phádraig Walks

 

Bray Coast Route – 32 km

Beginning at the Bray Seafront and ending 32 km away at St James Church in Crinken Bay, the Bray coast route offers spectacular coastal views for much of the way, but also passes through picturesque villages, such as Dalkey and sites such as the James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove before finally ending at the doors of St James Church.

For more information – Celtic Camino – Camino Society Ireland

 

The Boyne Valley Camino – 25 km

If you’re on a tight schedule, the Boyne Valley Camino provides you with exactly the number of kilometres needed before starting the Camino Ingles – the magic 25.

The walk is a loop that starts and ends in Drogheda, travelling through small villages, the Townley Hall woods and passing Mellifont Abbey and Oldbridge House before arriving back at Drogheda via the delightful Boyneside Trail.

For more information – Boyne Valley Camino | Drogheda.ie

 

St Kevins Way – 32 km

The St Kevin’s Way travels in the footsteps of St Kevin who walked through the mysterious valley of Glendalough before coming to a stop at a point where he would spend the rest of his life in quiet contemplation and prayer. That place, Glendalough, later grew into a monastery that became one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland drawing thousands of pilgrims each year.

The St Kevin’s Way starts in Hollywood, with an alternative route beginning in Valleymount. The two join at Ballinagee Bridge before the route winds its way southwest through the spectacular, brooding landscape to the ruins of the Glendalough monastery.

For more information – St Kevins Way – Pilgrim Path | Sport Ireland

 

St Finbarr’s Way – 37 km

Not for the faint-hearted, the St Finbarr’s Way, which connects Drimoleague and Gougane Barra, is one of the more difficult walks on this list, despite also being one of the shorter routes.

This trail begins at the Top of the Rock in Drimoleague, where stories tell of St Finbarr admonishing people to return to Christ in the 6th Century before departing north for Gougane Barra. The path travels through three significant mountain and valley systems, the Ilen, Mealagh and Ouvane, and culminates with a long, but spectacular descent from Foilastoookeen above Gougane Barra.

For more information – St Finbarr’s Way Linear (thesheepsheadway.ie)

 

The Kerry Camino – 57 km 

This famous old pilgrim path winds for 57 km between Tralee and Dingle and shares a special connection with the Camino de Santiago as the church in Dingle was built by Spanish merchants who dedicated it to St. James, which made Dingle one of the most popular departure points for those heading south towards Santiago.

The Kerry Camino mostly follows the Dingle Way, a 179km route around the Dingle Peninsula and is an ideal three-day route for anybody with a love of walking, mountains and ocean.

For more information – Route map – route overview – Kerrycamino.com

 

St. Declan’s Way – 111km 

For those really looking for a challenge, then look no further. The 111 km St Declan’s Way connects Cashel in Tipperary to Ardmore in Waterford. Along the way, you’ll pass the Cahir and Lismore Castles, plenty of quaint Irish farmland, while also crossing the Knockmealdown Mountains before arriving at the early Christian monastic site at Ardmore. The St Declan’s Way is not only a spectacular long-distance hike but one that is overflowing with history.

For more information – Home – St. Declan’s Way (stdeclansway.ie)   

 

Slí ár Sinsear -The Way of our Ancestors

This 29 km route connects Glenbeigh and Cahersiveen running along parts of the Kerry Way, a mixture of quiet roads and lanes and more demanding trails that snake through the beautiful Kerry landscape.

The route begins at the Church of Saint James in the village of Glenbeigh on the Ring of Kerry and ends at the Old Barracks Heritage Centre in Cahersiveen. It can be done in a single or with an overnight stay in Kells.

For more information – Slí ár Sinsear- The Way of our Ancestor | caminosociety

The Camino Ingles – or English Way – is the shortest of the many Camino routes and historically was the road taken by pilgrims arriving from Britain and Ireland who would land by ship on the northern Galicia coast.

There are two possible starting points here, A Coruña (75 km from Santiago, which requires additional walking in your home country to gain a Compostela) and Ferrol (113km from Santiago and long enough for the Compostela).

From Ferrol, the Camino Ingles is typically broken into five stages, while from A Coruña, four stages will lead you into Santiago. The two routes eventually merge, so the final two stages of both sections are the same.

The Camino Ingles provides a beautiful compact walk of no more than five days along one of the quitest of all the Camino routes. The early stages remain close to the dazzling coastline before heading south where the terrain becomes a little more challenging as you begin ascending and descending the hills around Santiago de Compostela.

Day One – Neda – Pontedeume (13 km)

With the industrial outskirts of Ferrol, not exactly a picturesque walking environment, we provide a vehicle transfer from Ferrol to the small town of Neda roughly 8 kilometres away, directly across the Ria de Ferrol. From here, the route dives south and eventually arrives at charming Pontedeume, a historic settlement that has morphed into a small buzzing resort town with plenty going on to entertain weary walkers.

Day Two – Pontedeume – Betanzos (20 km)

From Pontedeume, the Camino Ingles continues south, passing through the small town of Miño and its gorgeous Alameda beach, the perfect spot for a quick dip, though be warned, ocean temperatures around Galicia are notoriously icy almost all year round. South of Miño, the Camino passes through numerous small villages, past the Iglesia de San Pantaleón de AS Viñas, a Romanesque church from the 12th Century, before arriving in delightful Betanzos that comes with one of the best-preserved old quarters in all of Galicia.

Day Three – Betanzos – Meson do Vento (900 meters away from Bruma) (25 KM)

Perhaps the hardest day’s walk of the Camino Ingles is stage three. After leaving Betanzos, the Camino passes through typical Galician forests and small villages as the trail rises and falls. But from San Paio de Vilacoba, the route rises steeply before levelling off as you approach Bruma, where you can still visit the ancient pilgrim hospital and the Capilla de San Lorenzo chapel.

Day Four – Meson do Vento – Sigüeiro (24 km)

After the strenuous climb of the previous day, you’ll be happy to know that stage four is a gentle decline almost all of the way linking the small villages of Bruma and Sigüeiro. Along the way, you’ll pass the small villages of Carreira, Mámoas, A Fraga and O Porto and also the Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Merced chapel built in 1554.

Day Five – Sigüeiro – Santiago de Compostela (16 km)

The shortest stage of the Camino Ingles is also the last as your journey finally comes to an end at the gates of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. As charming forests give way to Santiago’s industrial area, it can be a bit of shock, but before you know it, you’ll be through the less aesthetically pleasing parts of the famed city and into Santiago’s historic streets that will eventually deliver you to the Praza do Obradoiro, the main square in front of the grand old cathedral.

Day One – A Coruna – Sarandons (23km) 

For those starting the Camino Ingles in A Coruña, this is an extension stage that joins with the route from Ferrol at the small village of Buma. If you can, spend a bit of time in A Coruña beforehand, as it is a spectacular city with numerous sites worth visiting, including the ancient Tower of Hercules.

As you leave A Coruña, the Camino heads directly south, with the first stage relatively easy going the entire way. Our first night’s stay is in the small town of Sarandons, lying on the banks of the River Ulla.

Day Two – Sarandons to Meson do Vento (900 meters away from Bruma) (10km)

If the first stage was easygoing, the second is more of a test. The route begins climbing immediately and there is a 400-metre elevation gain in just a few kilometres. But it’s certainly worth it as you’re rewarded with spectacular landscapes as you reach the plateau, passing through the small town of As Travesas before arriving at our final destination of Meson do Vento, close to tiny Bruma, home to the Hospital de Bruma, an old pilgrim sanctuary.

Day Three – Meson do Vento – Sigüeiro (24 km)

After the strenuous climb of the previous day, you’ll be happy to know that stage four is a gentle decline almost all of the way linking the small villages of Bruma and Sigüeiro. Along the way, you’ll pass the small villages of Carreira, Mámoas, A Fraga and O Porto and also the Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Merced chapel built in 1554.

Day Four – Sigüeiro – Santiago de Compostela (16 km)

The shortest stage of the Camino Ingles is also the last as your journey finally comes to an end at the gates of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. As charming forests give way to Santiago’s industrial area, it can be a bit of shock, but before you know it, you’ll be through the less aesthetically pleasing parts of the famed city and into Santiago’s historic streets that will eventually deliver you to the Praza do Obradoiro, the main square in front of the grand old cathedral.