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Towns Along the Way – "R"

Today, I’d like to make a start and talk to you about the towns along the Way starting with R. And there are a lot of them. The first of these towns is the first you will meet after leaving St. Jean Pied de Port. Again, if you have stopped in any of these towns, leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

Roncesvalles (map)

Roncesvalles (or Orreaga in Basque) is a small village in Navarre. It has a population of 50 people and is situated about 21 kms from the French border. This town is the start of the Camino Frances in Spain. The first day is probably the toughest day, after an ascent of over 1400 metres over the Pyrenees, but the descent to Roncesvalles can be equally challenging. On arriving at your end point, pilgrims are rewarded by their stay at possibly one of the best albergues on the Camino Frances. The albergue here is a renovated monastery with over 180 beds. There are other accommodation here to choose from. Ensure you visit its Gothic “Iglesia de Santiago” for pilgrim mass before having your first pilgrim meal in either of the town’s restaurants.

Redecilla del Camino (map)

Some 190 kms westward and 8 to 9 days later, we arrive at our next destination, Redecilla del Camino. It wouldn’t surprise me if you know little about this town as the majority of guidebooks gloss over it. That said, I have stayed here in 2014 and have enjoyed my time here, regardless of the size. Redecilla is located in the province of Burgos and has a population of 140 people. Those who have already walked the Camino will remember Redecilla as being the first town after the large sign saying you are now in Castille y Leon. There isn’t a whole lot to do here but I did enjoy my stay in Albergue San Lazaro. There is also a hotel here that serves fine food drinks and in 2016, a new albergue opened.

Rabé de las Calzadas (map)

A further 70 km to the west, we arrive in Rabé de las Calzadas. Again, this town is in Burgos and has a population of 150 people. Rabé marks the start of a new “phase” of the Camino, however. Now, pilgrims enter the meseta which is the the central plateau of Spain from Burgos to Astorga. While Rabé is roughly 10 kms from Burgos and most pilgrims tend to walk to either Hornillos or Hontanas, there are a number of albergues here. The town is sleepy with a main plaza and fountain and would attract pilgrims who prefer not to stay in Burgos. On leaving the town, you will pass the Ermita de Rabe de Calzadas.

Reliegos (map)

Between the towns of El Burgo Ranero and Mansilla de la Mulas, we arrive at Reliegos. Here we have a sleepy village with a population of 300 people. The journey to Reliegos is relatively uneventful with a long paved road to walk on and a long line of trees to your left hand side. The trees seem to go on for hours. You reach Reliegos eventually to be greeted by a number of huts on hills which are used as bodegas. Further on there is a Bar Elvis (right) owned by an eccentric but delightful character. You need to stop by there. There is plenty of accommodation in Reliegos. I have stayed in Albergue La Parada to the rear of the town in 2015. After walking 32 kms from Sahagun, we were glad to stay there. On leaving this town, you have 25 kms to Leon and the terrain will change from then on from the flat meseta you are currently on.

Rabanal del Camino (map)

21 kms from Astorga, you will arrive at Rabanal del Camino, the last stop before the up and over of the Leon hills. Many choose to stay here for the night as a result (thanks Brierley!) In the Middle Ages, the knights templar built several hospitals and churches here for passing pilgrims before the journey over the hills. For such a small town, it has a real relaxed vibe about it and I have stayed here myself a number of times. Albergue Gaucelmo is run by the CSJ and the Albergue NS de Pilar is also popular. Today, all economic activity of the village revolves around services for pilgrims, with up to four good albergues and hotels. It would be wrong of me not to mention the Benedictine Monastery, “San Salvador del Monte Irago“, set up in 2001, which is popular among pilgrims. Sleep well, as the next day can be tough on the legs as you climb to the Cruz de Ferro and descend to Molinaseca.

Riego de Ambrós (map)

Less than 4 kms after El Acebo, you will arrive at another small village – Riego de Ambrós. I have passed this town on 2 occasions and because my mind was so fixed on where my feet were, I didn’t take in where I was. Here the village lies on a curvy and steep descent, between El Acebo and Molinaseca. You have two albergues to choose from also, but if you are interested in breaking up the descent into 2 days, my advice is to stay in El Acebo beforehand as there are more facilities and more albergues. You may also prefer to finish the descent entirely and walk to Molinaseca (my favourite) or Ponferrada (where all the history is!) 

Ruitelán (map)

Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village, Ruitelán is situated in the El Bierzo valley between Villafranca del Bierzo and O Cebreiro. Many choose to walk from Villafranca to O Cebreiro over a day which is close to 30 kms. That’s pretty tough going. However, some like to stop just before the ascent kicks in (Ruitelán, Las Herrarias or La Faba) and leave it until the next day to move on. Could be a wise choice! Ruitelán has a recommended albergue that offers a communal meal – Albergue Pequeño Potala. I might try it out!

Ribadiso (map)

You have climbed O Cebreiro, you have entered Galicia, passed Sarria and are on the home stretch. On your 3rd or 4th last day before Santiago, you will pass Ribadiso (or Rivadiso to the Galicians).  It is not so much a town but rather a hamlet, and is home to the Rio Iso, a medieval bridge built over it and 2 albergues. All invite pilgrims to take a break. The old Xunta albergue, just past the bridge, used to be an old hospital restored from the fifteenth century. Ribadiso is 3 kms from Arzua and many a pilgrim has been tempted by the river to stay at these albergues rhan move on into the larger town.

Weekend Watch #66 – The Sounds of the Camino

What do you get when you just listen when you walk on Camino…I guess you get silence…and a lot of the sounds of nature. This video has all of that. If you haven’t walked the Camino, it is worth a watch!

With thanks to Busybird Publishing on YouTube.

It's February and a new Camino season is upon us!

It’s February and as I settle back to my new home (long story!), I begin to look ahead on the next few months. 2019 brought a record number of pilgrims to Santiago and the expectation is that this year, the numbers of visitors to Santiago will be higher. But I am here to write about my own walks and how I enjoy them. And I do enjoy them. The fact that I return each year shows you that I get great love from my time in Spain or Portugal. If I could spend longer, I would, but that’s for another blog post. I will make do with two weeks and a few days in Santiago once I arrive there.

I suppose I have an affinity with the coast. I was born and bred along the coast. I have lived with the sea breeze. Walking the Portuguese Coastal Route is somewhat special to me. It may not be the “true” Camino but having walked from A Guarda in 2018, I knew I would be back again. Am I even going as far as saying that the Portuguese Camino is more enjoyable than the Camino Frances? I will leave that for you to decide but it can have it’s benefits. The French Way will always have much more infrastructure – because more people walk it. On the Portuguese Camino, especially in September/ October when I do walk it, there will be less pilgrims but some albergues will be open.

I’m still conflicted, however, as the French Way has a small place in my heart. All those years on the meseta have had an effect on me!

Meseta in September

My packing list has been reviewed and I suppose the only item I need to buy is a few pairs of socks. I might do that tomorrow. Everything else is ready for the Kerry Camino in May.

Speaking of tomorrow, I will help with our local Camino association at their annual information event in Dublin. I think this is the 3rd one I have attended in St James Church and each one has been packed! It just shows that each year interest in the Camino is growing and people are always curious looking for the right information. I will be there on deck helping future pilgrims. We seem to get a great response each year. I will post some photos in my next post. Talk to you later.

3 months until the Kerry Camino

I’m not one for countdowns (ok..I am!) but it is just under 3 months before I wander to the south of Ireland and start the Kerry Camino. This is a relatively short trail compared to the ones I am used to in Spain and Portugal but the thought of just walking with a pack is liberating. I write this while Storm Ciara does her worst outside but hopefully in May all this mad weather will have abated.

Kerry Camino near Tralee / Photo: outsider.ie

Being in Ireland, you just can’t predict what weather you are going to get, especially in May. So the best thing to do is prepare for all seasons. I really can’t see my kit changing that much. I suppose the only parts that will test me is where the trail goes “off-road” or where it is super-mucky after a rain shower! I’m so used to road-walking, or walking on flat trails on the Camino, that I get put off by any bit of descent or ascent. And this is where a good stick comes in. I always buy one before I walk a Camino. Not the metal or ultra-light type. A good wooden one. I will have some time in Tralee before I start out so I can look around for one. It is great for support, not just physical.

My brother is coming along and we have reserved some accommodation in advance. It was just an idea as Tralee and Dingle are usually very busy. I had planned on walking this route alone a few years back luckily the brother was really eager to come along this time. Below are the list of accommodation we have reserved. You might leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of them:

  • Tralee: Glenfort House
  • Camp: Finglas House
  • Annascaul: Dingle Gate Hostel (looking forward to the South Pole Inn)
  • Dingle: Rainbow Hostel

The days are pretty short, 15km to 20km each day, I don’t have a guidebook but www.kerrycamino.com has great information and maps. The traditional arrow you see on the Camino is replaced by a sign and a picture of a little man walking. There are many stamping stations dotted around the trail and when you arrive in Dingle you will be awarded with a certificate. The Kerry Camino is one of the Celtic Caminos and walking this plus walking from A Coruna to Santiago will earn you with a compostela.

But, I have three months to go. I have much to do. Follow me here as I prepare for this Camino in May. Buen Camino!

Shamrocks and Shells – Do you have a Camino story to tell?

I have mentioned before that I edit a digital magazine for Camino Society Ireland, Shamrocks and Shells. It gives me great joy giving back to the Camino and it keeps me out trouble! It is published every quarter and the whole aim is to showcase the Society’s events throughout that quarter. We also look to publish pilgrim experiences, book and film reviews and practical information. Anything that a future pilgrim might find useful.

At present, we have the start of growing list of pilgrim stories dating back to 2018 but we are always looking for more. Every pilgrim has a story to tell, no matter where you have walked. If you do plan on writing, your submission will not be published on this blog but on Shamrocks and Shells. If interested, you might send me an email here. Looking forward to hearing from you and Buen Camino!

Towns Along The Way – “N-P”

It’s been a while since I wrote about the various towns that line the Camino Frances. In my last update, I talked about the towns of Maneru, Melide, Molinaseca, Manjarin, and Mansilla de las Mulas. Molinaseca is a favourite of mine. In this post, I’ll talk about some more towns. Again, if you have stayed in any of the below towns, please let me know how you got on in the comment box below!

Najera (map)

Najera is a small town in the region of La Rioja. It is nearly 27km from the city of Logrono and has a population of over 7,000 people. The Najerilla river splits the town in two and on a sunny day, relaxing by the river after a long walk is a great idea! I passed through Najera myself in 2013, 2015 and again in 2018, and it looked like the town had been built right out of the hills. It is visually stunning. The main sight in Najera is the church of Santa María la Real which was founded by García Sánchez III of Pamplona in 1052.

There are many different options for accommodation in Najera. I have stayed once (in 2013). If you are walking from Logrono and feel up to walking more than 25km, stopping in Najera is a good choice. Many people prefer to stop in Ventosa, the town prior.

Navarrete (Map)

Navarrete is also situated in the La Rioja region, 12km from Logrono. I remember seeing it first in 2013. Picture postcard stuff. It was my first day walking and it was pretty warm. I was thinking of calling it a day but I knew I had a few more kilometres left to walk that day. I stopped for a moment and saw the town at the top of a hill ahead of vineyards and that gave me the energy to keep going. After an Aquarius, of course!

Over 2,000 people live in this small town, which is based at the bottom of a hill. The streets are small and winding but it is a lively town. There is a castle at the top of the hill and there is one theory that the castle was used for defensive reasons. Nafarrate in Basque means “Door of Navarre”. Anyway, Navarrete is a welcoming place nowadays and treat peregrinos like their neighbour. There are many different places to stay here, both municipal and private. I have stayed in Albergue La Casa del Peregrino and I’d recommend it.

Obanos (map)

Ok, so even seasoned veterans will find it hard to remember this town. It is that small. We move from La Rioja to Navarra where Obanos is situated. It has a population of around 700 people. It is the final town before Puente la Reina and many choose to stay here during busy times. The Camino de Aragones from Somport and the Frances meet here and continue to Santiago. Obanos holds the Gothic church of San Juan Bautista which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. I found it amusing on passing the town in 2014 to find the same banner hanging from the church.

There are a number of places to stay in Obanos however the majority of people prefer to walk an extra few kilometres to Puente la Reina. Keep an eye out for the town’s fiesta however, as the people who live there put on a play every second year for the pilgrims who pass through.

16141-obanos

Pamplona (map)

We start with possibly the largest town on the Camino, other than Santiago herself. When someone mentions San Fermin, “the running of the bulls”, Hemingway and “The Sun Also Rises”, you automatically think of Pamplona (or Iruña in it’s favoured Basque).  Situated in Navarre, it is home to close to 200,000 people. The city is also famous for its “pinchos” and it’s always worthwhile to spend some time in the historic quarter where you can sample them (www.spain.info). As you make your way into Pamplona, you will pass a number of suburbs – Villava and Burlada – and finally see the town’s fortress walls. You are now entering the old town. There are many albergues, hostels, and hotels to choose from here (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in the municipal albergue. Pamplona is well worth a visit if you are not walking the Camino.

Puente la Reina (map)

Staying in Navarre and only a further 25 km westward, we find Puente la Reina. The town was named as such as the bridge was built by Queen Doña Mayor, the wife of King Sancho III, to facilitate passage of pilgrims over the river Arga. It is a town heavily influenced by the Way to Santiago, with the remains of walls and several religious buildings in place. El Iglesia de Santiago was founded by the Knights Templars, who settled in there. Also worth mentioning are its large medieval bridge of five arches, and the church of San Pedro, from the 14th century. There are a number of places for the weary pilgrim to rest their head in Puente la Reina (Gronze); Albergue Jakue being one of the better ones.

Población de Campos (map)

Close to 300km further on down the Camino Frances, we reach Población de Campos. Calling Población de Campos a town would be a push, however, as nearly 200 people live here. A hamlet would be the appropriate word! It is situated in Castilla y Leon and is the next town to Fromista. In the village, you will find Church of the Magdalena; and the chapels of Socorro and San Miguel. I do remember stopping here for a cafe con leche in 2015, but I haven’t considered it as a stop-off point. There are a number of albergues here, however (Gronze). The following video shows you scenes of the town.

Puente Villarente (map)

A further 100 km along the way, we arrive at Puente Villarente, a suburb of Leon. Named after it’s large Romanesque bridge, it has a population of approximately 150 people. I have passed through here on two occasions and wish I had stayed here as it is a long slog into the city of Leon. A footbridge was built recently for pilgrims to avoid any accidents on the busy main road. There are a number of albergues here also (Gronze); San Pelayo is getting good reviews.

Ponferrada (map)

Templario Castle in Ponferrada

Ponferrada is the capital of the El Bierzo region and is one of the major points of the Camino Frances. The historic quarter of this town sits below an imposing castle built by the Knights Templar. The Castle rises above the river Sil, dominating the city’s historic quarter. Construction began on this medieval fortress towards the end of the 12th century. It is also worth visiting the Museum of El Bierzo, located in Calle del Reloj, in the building which was the former prison. Its facilities provide an introduction to the history of Ponferrada. As with every large town, there are many places to stay (Gronze). I haven’t stayed here myself, preferring to stop in the town prior, Molinaseca.

Pieros (map)

Another small village located just outside a larger town. Pieros has a population of fewer than 50 people and is dependant on the Camino. Five kilometres along the way is the much larger Villafranca del Bierzo, in the Bierzo valley. Pieros is home to the fantastic Albergue El Serbal y Luna and don’t forget to take a pit stop at the Café Bar Arroyo (on the left-hand side of the road) before moving on.

Pereje (map)

Pereje is the first town you arrive at on leaving Villafranca del Bierzo; 5 km to be precise. However, it is worth noting that you will only see this town if you walk along the roadside. There are two alternative routes (via Dragonte and via Pradela) which skip a number of towns, but that’s for another day. Pereje is built just off the busy N6 motorway and also lies on the River Valcarce. I walked through Pereje on my way to O Cebreiro in 2012 and even though it was a tough day, Pereje is one of those towns that make you want to come back to Spain, open an albergue and give back. There is a great albergue and a pension to choose from here (Gronze). Leaving Pereje, you return to the N6 with Santiago on your mind.

Portomarin (map)

The first thing you will notice as you approach Portomarin is the large bridge over the Mino river, following the climb of a number of steep steps into the village. But if you look close enough, you may see another bridge underneath. The reason for this is in the 1960s the Miño River was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village of Portomarín under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in a new town, including its church – La Iglesia de San Juan in the main plaza. In the seasons when the dam is at a low level, the remains of ancient buildings, the waterfront, and the old bridge are still visible. Also, if you look close enough at the church, you will see numbers placed on the bricks, to ensure each brick is put back together! I walked through this town in 2011 and was fascinated by the history. There is no shortage of accommodation in Portomarin (Gronze).

Palas de Rei (map)

Some 25 km after Portomarin and 70 km from Santiago, we arrive at Palas de Rei. It is a major stop-off point for pilgrims with plenty of facilities, albergues, and hotels (Gronze). The town is of pre-Roman origins and it was important in assisting pilgrims during the Middle Ages. At this point, you are only three days from Santiago.

O Pedrouzo (map)

20 km from Santiago, we arrive at O Pedrouzo. The Caminos del Norte, Primitivo and Frances all pass through this large town, so it can be a little busy during the summer months. Never-the-less, there is no shortage of accommodation (Gronze) and pilgrims usually use this town to get some rest before their arrival in Santiago. O Pedrouzo is the capital of the municipality of O Pino and has close to 600 people living there. This is unofficially the penultimate stop on the Camino Frances but it is possible to stay beyond here should you want to make your final day that little bit shorter.

Weekend Watch #65 – Why people walk the Camino?

It’s the weekend again and I am home from another great walk with Camino Society Ireland. I love meeting with other pilgrims.

You can read how we got on here on the Camino Society Ireland magazine. Before I shuffle on to bed, I was sent this video by Linda and it made me think. We all have our reasons to walk the Camino. Some pilgrims like to give those reasons if you ask them, some choose to keep their reasons to themselves. I usually say I am just going for a long walk in search of something. I usually don’t find that certain “something” until my 5th or 6th Camino. Talk later!

Camino Portugues – Putting some plans together..

For those of you who know me, I have always been averse to organising a Camino in any shape or form. I’ve written about it before. In most of my Caminos, I prefer to pre-book a hostel or a private albergue at my starting point and if I am finishing in Santiago, e-mail the good people at the San Martin Pinario a few months in advance for a bed in their pilgrim section. I’ve been quite happy with listening to my body and putting up with the bed-race, no matter how irritating it has been getting of late. Walking from Lisbon, myself and my Camino buddy, Carsten, had the freedom to walk for as long as we wished and we still “had a room at the inn”. There were some days we arrived at a hostel at 3pm with a selection of beds. But this is the Camino from Lisbon and most pilgrims walk from Tui or even Porto on this route.

The annual figures from the Pilgrims Office in Santiago were released earlier this month and while part of me is not surprised by the increase, I am surprised by how popular the Camino has become since I walked first back in 2011. It is inevitable that the numbers will increase in 2020 and in 2021, the Holy Year in Santiago. The question is how high will the number be. It is worth pointing out that the number below are pilgrims who have collected their compostela in Santiago. There are others who do not value the compostela and feel happy to reach Santiago. So we may be over 350,000?

So to avoid all stress, I’ve decided to use Booking.com to prebook certain accommodation for this Camino. A wise move? I will let you know when I reach Santiago. I have two albergues yet to book as they are closed at the moment. On reaching Santiago, I look forward to spending 2 nights in the San Martin Pinario and meeting friends based in the town.

Having somewhere booked means I don’t have to start as early, I can take my time and I can capture some content with my Osmo. I will still carry my backpack however, I won’t lose sight of my kit! 🙂

Here is a draft itinerary from Porto:

28/09/2020Porto – metro to MatosinhosPovoa do Varzim
29/09/2020Povoa do VarzimEsposende 
30/09/2020Esposende Viana do Castelo
01/10/2020Viana do CasteloA Guarda
02/10/2020A GuardaMougás
03/10/2020Mougás Saiáns
04/10/2020Saiáns Redondela
05/10/2020RedondelaPontevedra
06/10/2020PontevedraCaldas de Reis
07/10/2020Caldas de ReisPicaraña
08/10/2020PicarañaSantiago
09/10/2020Santiago
10/10/2020Bus to PortoFlight to Dublin

Some can walk in 10 days, I am hoping to complete it in 11 days. The only day that concerns me is the one from Viana do Castelo to A Guarda which is 30 kms long, 4 km of which is on a boat from Caminha in Portugal to A Guarda to Spain. I arrive in familiar territory at this point having walked the Coastal Camino with my brother 2 years ago. The distances get shorter once I arrive in Spain with some days less than 20km.

But we are in January. There is much to happen before I fly to Porto and take my first step. The Kerry Camino in May being one.

Looking out to the coast / May 2018

Weekend Watch #64 – Portuguese Coastal Camino

This is a short video promoting the Portuguese Coastal Camino and it does a great job. September can’t come soon enough. However, I can’t help noticing that this particular pilgrim walked inland to Valenca instead of crossing the River Mino at Caminha.

Towns Along the Way – “M”

This post will be slightly longer than the previous ones as I try to cram the towns beginning with “M” together into one post. Hopefully, the information provided will be of use to you. There are 9 in total from the province of Navarra right through to Galicia. Again, if you have stayed in any of the below towns, please comment and let me know of your experiences!

Mañeru (map)

I had to search for my guidebook before I could write about this town. It is not one that springs to mind. Mañeru is a small village located between Puente la Reina and Ciraquai in the province of Navarra and you would be forgiven if you had forgotten about it. It has a population of just over 400 people. It is a Basque-speaking zone and on reaching this town, you will have 100 km walking completed from St Jean Pied de Port. I have not stayed here however, there is an albergue here if you did wish to stay the night (Gronze). On two occasions, I chose to stay in the larger Puente la Reina, one town previous, when I walked through Navarra in September 2014 and again in 2018.

Manjarín (map)

Manjarín is a very unique place. It is mostly desolate and is situated between the Cruz de Ferro and El Acebo, high up in the Leon Mountains. At present, one of a few permanent inhabitants is Tomás, and according to him, he is one of the last Templar knights. In the mid-twentieth century, like many other mountain villages in Spain, Manjarín remained abandoned until 1993 when Tomás, mentioned above, took on the work of many other hospitaleros along the Camino de Santiago. He currently serves pilgrims during the whole year, even during winter, feeding and providing them a place to stay for the night. I would consider saying hello to him when you pass his refugio, even if you don’t plan on staying there.

Mansilla de las Mulas (map)

After a good amount of road walking, arriving into Mansilla de las Mulas is something to look forward to. Having walked through Castilla y Leon on two occasions, I have stayed here once and loved it. Mansilla de las Mulas is a town in the province of Leon. It has a population of about 2000 inhabitants. The town lies on the River Esla and you will notice that on leaving the town. Mansilla is a walled town, just like Leon further on, and it is difficult not to notice these ruins on walking through the town. On arriving in Mansilla, you will see the monument of three worn-out pilgrims taking a rest. I took a rest with them in this picture..I’d say quite a few others did too. There is a wealth of albergues and pensions to choose from in Mansilla (Gronze). I found the Municipal albergue to be perfect. On leaving Mansilla, you are 19km away from Leon.

Melide (map)

Melide is quite a large town in the province of A Coruna in Galicia. It has a population of 9,000 people and is one of the largest towns in Galicia. On reaching Melide, you will have 50km or 2-3 days left to reach Santiago. The history of this village is deeply linked with the pilgrimage to Santiago. Also during the last few centuries, like many villages in inner Galicia, it has suffered from a vast emigration. My only encounter with Melide was in 2011 when I walked from Sarria to Santiago. I stayed in the relatively plush surroundings of Hotel Carlos and had my pack transported for me. I walk a different kind of Camino nowadays, so Melide may shine a different light on me when I pass her next. For starters..there is so much history here (church of San Pedro and the cruciero of Melide – pictured). Melide is also famous for it’s pulpo, available at Casa Ezequiel. There are a vast array of albergues, pensions and hotels in Melide (Gronze).

Mercadoiro / Marcadoiro (map)

Did you know that when you reach the 100 km marker on the Camino, you don’t actually have 100 km to walk? The true 100 km distance point is at a little Galician town called Mercadoiro. For such a tiny town, it has a well-recommended albergue (Gronze) that can act as an alternative to the more popular town of Portomarin.

Molinaseca (map)

Ah..Molinaseca, one of my favourite towns. After a rough 6-8 hours walk up and over the Leon Mountains, Molinaseca is a small oasis. At the entrance, you will see the shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows. The medieval pilgrims bridge, which has been recently restored, crosses the River Meruelo and you are then left at the start of Calle Real. The buildings in Molinaseca are typical of those in the El Bierzo region of Leon. It has a population of just under 800 people. I have stayed in this town twice, preferring it to Ponferrada, 8 kms further on. It is not rare to see pilgrims lying down by the river and soaking up the atmosphere. Some may even take a swim. I would gladly stay there again. I have only good memories of walking from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca and staying there. There are many albergues and hostels in Molinaseca (Gronze) also. The main albergues are located on the main road as you leave the town, Albergue Santamarina being well recommended. Now, you have 220 km until Santiago – not long to go!

Moratinos (map)

Moratinos is a small town in the province of Palencia. It has a population of just under 100 people and is situated in the meseta, just between Terradillos de los Templarios and Sahagun. When you enter the town, you will be greeted by a number of “bodegas”, or wine cellars, dug into a hill. There are a number of albergues and pensions here also (Gronze). I haven’t stayed here myself, but I would recommend Albergue Hospital San Bruno as they serve an amazing breakfast!

Morgade (map)

Another town that you can walk through very quickly. I walked through Morgade back in June 2011 and have yet to pass through it again. In a few years I will. How and ever, Morgade is situated in Galicia between Sarria and Portomarin. It is very typical of hamlets along the Camino in Galicia. This part of Spain is covered in green, just like here in Ireland. You are walking through farmland, in essence. It tends to rain a lot, so be prepared for inclement weather. I remember stopping here briefly in Casa Morgade for a cafe con leche and a sello. It was so welcome at the time as the walk from Sarria to Barbedelo is tough but worthwhile. If you are starting out your Camino in Sarria, it’s probably a little too early to stop for the day, but you should consider if your Camino starts earlier.

Murias de Rechivaldo (map)

Murias is situated just under 5 kms after Astorga in the province of Leon. It is a beautiful village with it’s building constructed in the style of the La Maragatería. The parish church of San Esteban dates back to the eighteenth century. Just over 100 people live here. I have passed through this village on two occasions – 2012 and 2015. The problem with staying in Astorga and starting out early (like I do!) is that nothing is open when I pass through it. Murias was home to one of the most talked about cafes on the Camino Frances – Meson El Llar. Run by Pilar, El Llar is unfortunately closed but was very popular with pilgrims. There are a number of albergues and hostals here to consider also (Gronze).

Stay tuned for N and O shortly!