The English Way - highlights from a solo walking holiday in Spain
There are many Caminos to Santigao de Compostella. These are the historic pilgrim trails crossing through many countries but ultimately ending in Spain. The Camino Ingles, is known as the English Way as the starting point in Ferrol was the closest for the English to complete the pilgrimage from this port.
As I wanted to fit my trip into a long weekend and get a nice certificate at the end, I chose to walk this route, totaling 116km over 5 days in June 2019. To receive the certificate, pilgrims have to walk a minimum of 100km and provide evidence of this achievement by way of a pilgrim passport that has collected stamps from churches (or nowadays pretty much anywhere like shops, cafes, post offices etc) along the way. I didn't plan a lot before I went as I knew it would be easy enough to find my way. However I did make a few mistakes and some of my journey could have been better planned. So here's my top highlights and tips specifically for the Camino Ingles
1. Affordable Holiday
I found I spent less in 6 nights than any other holiday I've had before. Granted this is a walking holiday and a lot of people wouldn't consider walking a holiday. My flights to fairly unknown Spanish towns were very affordable, less than £100 for return flights. The accommodation on the Camino was bunks in Albergue, basic accommodation for pilgrims walking the trail, costing around €6-€8 per night. I ate from pilgrim menus in the evening, 3 courses of fried carbs and protein with a drink for €10. Walking is free and the scenery you see on foot in Galicia is fantastic.
2. Good Spanish food was limited
On the downside was the lack of plentiful traditional Spanish food on this particular Camino. I had read about wonderful traditional meals in local areas but unfortunately this was quite limited on the Camino Ingles. I found myself arriving where I would rest for the night quite early in the day, too early for Spanish to consider eating dinner. So my meals were in between a beer and crisps and finding whatever was open before 8pm for dinner. There is of course pilgrim menus available in most towns along the route but I do not think these menus are designed to display the delicacies of the local area, rather they fill a tired walker up with some cheap carbs and chicken.
3. Sleeping Bag needed for Albergue!
Albergue de peregrinos are the hostels for pilgrims or walkers, these basic bunk houses can be booked ahead on the day or turn up first come first served. I was mistaken with the online advise I chose to follow when packing my backpack. Some Albergues do offer blankets and all that I stayed in offered plastic hygienic single use covers but I had not packed a sleeping bag. So there were several nights that I spent feeling very clean but wearing all my clothes shivering under my raincoat. Lessen learnt, even in June in Spain it can be cold. Luckily the worst night which was in Bruma de Hospital, I had walked 40km and sunk a bottle of red before sleeping, so I somehow managed to get through the night untouched by the snores and smells of fellow piligrims.
4. Easy walking and logistics
Flying into A Coruña and out of Santiago de Compostella, making use of excellent public transport links, I felt the Camino Ingles is perfectly set up to fit this into a hassle free long weekend. At the time of this trip I had not walked a long distance route alone previously however as the Caminos are well sign posted and do not walk through wilderness this was an effortless route to orientate. The terrain was a mixture of agricultural countryside, road walking and hills. This was a lovely introduction to the joys of walking solo. There are plenty of hostels and albergue to make the daily mileage flexible enough to adapt to your skill. I found that I was covering more miles than I had planned which meant I finished in Santiago de Compostella sooner and enjoyed an extra night with some new friends.
5. Trail Magic Pick Me Ups
One of the loveliest things I came across were little cool boxes of snacks and drinks, normally in shady spots with some chairs, I popped a few euros into a box and enjoyed the break
6. Spanish Rustic Charm
Galicia, northern Spain is an area less traveled by mainstream tourism. Walking through a relatively small part of this region I appreciated the beauty of the countryside, the charm of old and still in use stone farm buildings, little villages high on the top of hills, misty morning views across flat plains, cobbled roads and of course the multitude of ancient churches that lined the pilgrims trail.
The Camino Ingles is short and sweet and may not offer the same charisma of the Primitivo Camino or Frances Caminos but you can pack a lot in over 116km!
7. Pontedeume is beautiful
This riverside town has stayed in my mind ever since I walked through and stopped for lunch. You would not hear much about this pretty place as a prime holiday location as it's not easy to access. The perfectly maintained cobbled streets, traditional stone buildings, a myriad of uphill pavements and archways, each leading onto pretty leafy green courtyards of cafes and restaurants made this town such a contrast from the agricultural and industrial miles that had been walked prior. Following the iconic shell of st James, the Camino trail marker, eventually I found the central church high at the top of the town, proud against the sky. Turning away from the town to continue walking I felt like that wasn't the last I would see of Pontedeume.
Ending in Santiago de Compostella, I queued to get my certificate (for about an hour, maybe more) and enjoyed city life before flying home. A very enjoyable 6 day trip.
It was on this journey that I begun to realise how much I enjoy long distance walking and I made a promise to myself to choose a charity to dedicate walking the Pacific Crest Trail to. Several years later I have now chosen a charity, click here to find out more.