May 2019: Walking in Medieval Pilgrims footsteps

I attended a talk given by Dr. Bernadette Cunningham last night at Lismullen Conference Centre, near Tara. It was such an appropriate place to hold the talk as the area is steeped in history..the hill of Tara, and not too far from Newgrange. The talk was on medieval pilgrimage from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela. Bernadette is due to have her book published shortly on the same subject, one that she has been researching since 2014.

 The book launch will be on December 6th in Kevin Street Library in Dublin and there is great excitement leading up to it. 

The book, along with the release of the Camino Voyage documentary in Irish cinemas today, highlights the evidence of how Irish pilgrims made their way to Santiago during the 14th and 15th centuries. I guess we will know more when the book comes out. 

I will be attending the cinema release of the Camino Voyage this evening (my third viewing). It’s been great watching it grow to what it is now. In 2019, it is hoped that it will be released on DVD worldwide.

And back to my plans and the Camino. I have booked flights for the 7th of May to Santiago de Compostela. I travel with my brother, not on a merchant ship but on Aer Lingus economy class. I then travel to Ferrol and walk for a few days to Betanzos. From there, we will catch a bus to A Coruna and walk to Santiago. If there is time, we will walk to the coast and watch the sunset at Finisterre. It will be magic!

An Exciting Few Months…

It may as well be April. The clocks have gone forward and already the first sign of summer is in the air. Friends have reached Santiago already (Buen Camino L!) which only increases my urgency to return to Spain and search for the yellow arrows. But the next few months are busy. You could say I have started my Camino…but I have not yet left my home.

As mentioned previously, the first annual Celtic Camino Festival kicks off in Westport in Co. Mayo from April 13th. I will be attending for the weekend. I have the train booked, the hotel arranged and all events booked. April 13th sees the screening of excellent “The Camino Voyage” directed by Donal O Ceallachair – A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time’s dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic Odyssey. April 14th will see presentations, discussions & workshops by internationally renowned Camino experts. A Gala Dinner will follow with Spanish music and dance. And April 15th, there will be a Celtic Camino Pilgrim Walk of up to 25km along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail & Tochar Padraig, including Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and we hope to see you there!

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If this interests you and you wish to attend, Camino Society Ireland along with Irish Rail are offering you the chance to win free travel and tickets to all events for two. Just go to this link to enter http://www.irishrail.ie/fare-and-tickets/camino-festival.

Following the weekend, it is just a matter of weeks until I set off to A Guarda in Southern Galicia on the Portuguese Camino. From there I walk to Santiago with my brother and it will be his first time on any Camino. What a trip for him?! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you want to be kept updated while I am on my Camino in Spain as I will be updating the blog.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home

Camino 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home – September 15th & 16th
A bus trip to my 2nd home…and then back to Dublin.

My final two days in Spain contain little to no walking unfortunately. A quick caveat. September 15th: my Camino this year is over and alls that is left is to return home. My blisters were fading, I had caught up on sleep and I had finished checking into albergues for one more year. Bittersweet was the word. That said, I have a good sleep in Maria de Siervas albergue and I have much to look forward to. I get up early and stroll over to Astorga’s bus station. My bus arrives at 7.30am for the trip to Santiago de Compostela. An early morning, but not Camino early!

The bus station is located behind the Cathedral in Astorga. Everything is sleeping as I make my way there. The station is just opening but I have a super breakfast in the cafe right beside it. Cafe with toast…now we are slowing making our way back to normality! The trip to Santiago is over 5 hours by bus as we take a detour to A Coruna and south to our destination. I spent most of the trip looking out the window and thinking of next year’s Camino. Where will I go? Will I go alone? At what time of the year? Will this be the last time I wander on the Camino Frances? Arriving at A Coruna was a highlight also. I hope to walk from here in the next few years. From what I saw, it’s a beautiful town. Next stop, Santiago.

The weather had deteriorated on arriving in Galicia. You’re always going to get rain once you reach this part of the world. Just like in Ireland, their Celtic cousin. The clouds rolled in and arriving in Santiago, I wore my rain jacket for the first time since arriving in Spain. I was glad to bring it. I arrived into the Estación de Autobuses around 2pm and took the local bus to Praza Galicia. A quick 10 minute walk brought me to Hospederia San Martin Pinario and to my pilgrim room. Luxury for €23. It wasn’t long before I was walking the streets of Santiago. I seem to know this town so well. I paid a visit to the Terra Nova Pilgrim House on Rúa Nova and had a chat with the volunteers. Unfortunately, I missed Faith and Nate, who look after the Pilgrim House so brilliantly. Maybe next year. Café Casino is still well intact, I paid a visit and had a quick café con leche. I made my way to Praza do Obradoiro and just sit. I sit and stare. There are many doing the same, lost in their thoughts. I look at the Cathedral, covered in scaffolding but with a heart beating away inside. I listen to the music while pilgrims enter the Praza. It’s a busy square with many tourist groups. It’s hard to think so I head back to the Hospederia and write my journal for the day. Later that evening, I had some food in O Gato Negro and return to have an early night.

While in Astorga, I received a text from author and veteran pilgrim JohnnieWalker, asking if I would meet him while in Santiago. We agreed to do so on the Saturday, the day I leave. I awake at 8am and make way for breakfast in the Hospederia. I love the breakfast they put on here…you receive a mixture of everything, fruits, cereals, breads, toast, juices. I had a healthy breakfast, let’s just say. Afterward I had packed and checked out, I made my way to Iglesia de San Agustin, a Jesuit church, where Johnnie would be on organ duty for Mass at 12 o clock. I sat at the back and listened on. “Palchabel’s Canon in D Major” rang throughout the iglesia as the congregation grew larger. The Mass was entirely in Spanish and I was lost in places but the music quickly brought me home. I hear “Down by the Sally Gardens” and as the Mass ended, the music took a more Irish feel. Johnny played Amhran na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem, as bemused Mass-goers left the church. We shook hands afterwards. It was great to finally meet after being in Santiago so often over the years. I could barely hold my laughter in, after hearing the final piece of music.

We went for a cafe and some tapas before I collected my bag and headed for the airport. The Aer Lingus flight was full, mostly with returning pilgrims, and the journey was quick. I was home within 2 hours. The many questions I had before I left were mostly answered. It’s good to return to simplicity for a few weeks, and I enjoyed my time walking the meseta. I had many memories and my friends were in my mind as they continued their Caminos to Santiago.

However, I had one question left on arriving back in Dublin….”Where will my next Camino be?”

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Your Stories, Your Camino…

Have you recently walked a Camino? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Now, I realise that walking all or part of a Camino can be difficult to put into words. It took me a while to process all the thoughts in my head after my first Camino in 2011. What I am ideally looking for is a short synopsis of your Camino – where you walked and for how long, what positives you took from it, and if you had any bad experiences. If you could write about 100 words and include a picture or so, that would be ideal. Maybe you have created a video of your time on the Camino? If so, send me the link and I will post it. I will post your summary so others who may have not walked the Camino will take note. I think it will be very helpful.

Let me know if you are interested in getting involved by emailing me at clearskiescamino@gmail.com.

 

Bray to St. James Church, Dublin – Stage One of The Celtic Camino

Early Friday morning I received a text from my friend Oihana asking if I was free to take a walk the following day. I said I did and the starting point was to be Bray in Wicklow. Bray is roughly an hour on the train from my home and about 30 km walk to Dublin city centre. The plan was to walk for 15 km or so and then we could catch the train or bus home. However I brought up the suggestion that we could walk to St. James Church and complete the first stage of the Celtic Camino. We were to bring our pilgrim passports and collect sellos just in the event that we do make it to the end point. I felt in good shape so there was no reason not to. If we made it and collected our certificates, we would then be entitled to a Compostela having walked from A Coruna, something I have been planning to do in March or April of 2018.

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We met on the train in Dublin city centre and continued on our way to Bray, which is a large seaside town in Wicklow. It has a large promenade and a great cliff walk that I have yet to try. We arrived close to 9am and looked for somewhere to receive our first sello. We were told by one of the staff that the information desk at Bray train station would provide us with one. We were delighted however we had much amusement changing the date on the stamp! We had proof that we were in Bray and we took a selfie just in case the powers that be had any doubts!

Onwards we went and walked northwards in the direction of Shankill, a large residential estate and town. It was a shame we moved away from the sea and I hope in time, it will be possible to walk closer to the coast in that direction. It took close to an hour to pass Shankill and we were delighted to meet a large church called Crinken Church. We hoped that it would be open and it was!! A music group were practising inside and welcomed us in. One had walked the Camino before and was delighted to hear of this new Camino. We asked if they had a sello and after much hesitation, he said he would look. He returned with a stamp of two footprints..very symbolic! We later learned that the name of the church is St. James’ of Shankill..win!

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We both felt good and with plenty of water we felt that we could complete the 30km. It was still early however the temperature was increasing. It was predicted to reach 27c in the afternoon and at 10.30, it was in the early 20’s, so we tried to stay in the shade as much as we could. Before leaving Shankill, we received another stamp at the Post Office. They were delighted also to hear of the new route and said that they were planning on walking in Spain soon. We also saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a large yellow arrow. 🙂 That could only mean one thing…he has been on the Camino! We wished him a Buen Camino and walked on!

From Shankill, our next stop was Killiney and we were back on the coast again!! The seaside breeze felt great. With the sun out for the day, dozens of people were making for the beach and the walkways were crowded with folks out for the day. I decided to take a little detour and walk through Killiney Hill. That means jumping up about 100 steps to reach the top of the Hill and the famous Obelisk statue. Phew..what a climb. And it was a perfect time to stop for a rest and to marvel at Dublin bay from a height. I could see where we both started and also where we both had hoped to finish. It is one of the highest places in Dublin and great for a walk. Killiney Hill is a large park and is very animal friendly. Plenty of dogs were out with their owners lapping up the sun.

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Adelante!! We left the park after that much needed rest, and rather than continue by the coast, we walked on a trail called The Metals straight to Dun Laoghaire. The Metals is a 3km straight walkway that was formerly a rail line from the quarry in Dalkey to Dun Laoghaire. It’s a lovely walk way but there are no opportunities to collect sellos. We might collect one or two in Dun Laoghaire, we hoped. And we did, as the local library was open. They were glad to assist.  Dun Laoghaire was bustling. It’s amazing what the sun can do. We continued on but not before we took the below pictures.

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From here we would walk along the coast until we reached Dublin Port and 3 Arena. It seemed like the entire population of Dublin were out by the beach, even though the tide was out! With time passing, I became more aware of a niggling pain in my foot but a 99er ice cream seemed to ease the pain for a while. We reached Dublin Port at 2.30pm, a full 5 and a half hours since we started. It was by far the best walk in Dublin I have taken, made special by the great company and the people we met along the way. From Dublin Port, it was a straight walk along the quays up to St. James’ Church which closes at 3.30 on Saturdays. I had slight doubts that we weren’t going to make it but Oihana is super-positive and assured me that we had all the time in the world. I was introduced to the Jeannie Johnson ship that is based along the port and EPIC, the Irish emigration musuem. Where have I been all these years??! Along the quays we walked until we came to Christchurch Cathedral and Vicar Street. Then the Guinness Storehouse and St. James’ Church. We arrived at the Camino Information Centre at 3.15pm and showed our credencials.

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Yes, I had sore feet, yes I had a farmers’ tan, but boy! what a walk?!

If you are interested in walking the Celtic Camino, this is a great route for your Irish leg. Alternatively, you can walk a pilgrim path, for example St Kevin’s Way or St. Declan’s Way. But for somewhere closer to home, this is ideal. If you are unable to walk it in one day, you can walk it over two days. You will be still entitled to a certificate from the Camino Society. So 5 out of 5! Now to look forward to A Coruna in 2018.

New – The Celtic Camino

I reported this on my Facebook page yesterday but I realise a lot of my readers do not use Facebook.

Yesterday, I went along to a talk given by the Camino Society of Ireland about a proposed Celtic Camino. There was a large crowd there and we had the attendance of the mayor of A Coruna, Xulio Ferreiro, the Spanish ambassador to Ireland, José María Rodríguez Coso, and some of his team from the Spanish embassy.

At present, the number of pilgrims who start their Caminos from the northern coastal town of A Coruna is relatively small compared to the Camino Frances. A Coruna is a starting point on the Camino Ingles (along with Ferrol) but is 75km in distance and not long enough to receive a Compostela from Santiago Cathedral. However, delegates from a number of Camino Societies in Europe met last December, along with members various tourism bodies in A Coruna, to think of ways to promote A Coruna as a starting point and enhance the Camino Ingles. They came up with a proposal to present to the Cathedral. It was proposed that pilgrims can receive a Compostela by walking the 75km from A Coruna to Santiago, provided the remaining 25 km is walked elsewhere on a pilgrim route. This idea was presented to the Dean of Santiago Cathedral and it was agreed to. At the moment, the Camino Society of Ireland are deciding which on which routes to use in Ireland. Once you walk this, you will be given a certificate by the Irish Camino Society. You bring this with you to Spain, walk from A Coruna and present this to the pilgrim office in Santiago. You will receive your compostela then. The Spanish embassy are also in talks with Aer Lingus to introduce a direct flight to A Coruna.

This also is a great opportunity to market the current pilgrim paths in Ireland as many people from other countries can walk the 25km and walk from A Coruna at a later stage.

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More information: here and here

Are you a Pilgrim or a Walker?

It’s close to 10pm here in cold Dublin but wanted to share the below video with you all before I called it a night. It’s a pretty long video, coming in at close to 3 hours, so if you have a bit of time spare, it is well worth the watch. The maker of the video (sorry, I didn’t get a name but he goes by the username “Nalutia“) walked from St Jean Pied de Port to Fisterra in 2015 over 30-something days and I suppose this acted as a bit of a video diary. There are some great scenes of the Pyrenees and the meseta, with nice local music from Pamplona, La Rioja and Santiago.

During the video, he points out that, in his opinion, there are two types of people walking the Camino – pilgrims or trekkers / walkers. The vast majority of people say they are pilgrims but is the intention there to come home a better person than before? Do you visit a church, or take in the surroundings if you are not religious?

Or would you be a walker? Do you leave your accommodation before sunrise, ignore the amazing surroundings and attractions, and try to get to Santiago in the least amount of time? If you have walked the Camino before, the great “Bed Race” is an example of this, which I have been guilty of before!! This really defeats the purpose of the Camino in my opinion.

So if you are planning an upcoming Camino, listen to what the man in the below video has to say. Take your time, leave your earphones at home and experience what Spain has to offer. Go there with an open mind also, because, even if you don’t consider yourself a pilgrim now, you might learn something new about yourself while on the Way.

A tripod and expensive camera might be a little too much however… enjoy!