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. ūüôā 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.

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!

The Irish and the Camino..

Hi everyone, just some news that happened over the last week.

  • I went along to a talk given by Turlough of Donnell of the Irish Camino Society entitled “The Irish and the Camino de Santiago: 800 Years of History” as part of the Dublin History Festival.¬†During the hour or so, Turlough talked about how Irish pilgrims made their way to Santiago through the ages, whether it be by horse or foot and more recently boat. There is also evidence of an old refugio used by medieval pilgrims in Dublin which is all news to me! I was motivated to look for more information online but I can’t seem to find it so far. I have emailed the Irish Camino Society for information on a book published by Leuvan University about the Irish and the Camino. I’d be really interested to read it. Turlough was interviewed by local radio station Near.fm about the talk on the 3rd of October. You can listen to this podcast here.
  • While looking for more information about the Camino and the Irish, I found this great article published by HistoryIreland.com from 1998 entitled “The Irish Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela“. You can read that in full here. It’s very interesting from an Irish point of view.
  • Who remembers writing a thesis in college? It’s one of those things we all have to do and it accounts for a large amount of your final score in your final year. I certainly remember mine..I’d rather forget it actually :). I have found a thesis on the subject of the Camino published online. The full title is “In Defence of the Realm : Mobility, Modernity and Community on the Camino de Santiagoand it’s fairly detailed. Have a read when you get some time. It was published in 2007 but may not as up to date as today.
  • And finally, I am taking my new rucksack out on her maiden voyage. Hopefully I will get to climb one of the many hills in Wicklow, depending on the weather that is. The more climbs I get before my Camino Ingles, the better.

 

 

September and Beyond…

Hi folks, I have been a little pre-occupied over the last few weeks so posts on the blog have been few and far between. However, I don’t have long before my Camino from Santiago to Finistere in September. I’m really looking forward to this. It is new ground and I have heard so many good things about watching the sun fall over the horizon in Finistere and Muxia. Another three months before I board a flight to Santiago!

However, I have been thinking a lot about what to do afterwards; when I return to Dublin and the dust settles. Do I return to Spain and walk another part of the Camino Frances like I have done year-on-year? Or choose another route within Spain? Or maybe about France or further afield? All of these options have whizzed through my mind for a while now. There are so many different walking routes around Europe, including Spain. One such route is in Norway – the St. Olav’s Way. It is under the radar at the moment compared to the routes in Spain, but¬†is being actively promoted by the government in Norway. I believe it will be the “next-big-thing” after the Caminos de Santiago within the next ten years. At present, if you walked alone on one of the Ways in Norway, you will be lucky to meet other pilgrims¬†for days. It is for that reason I have chosen to park it to one side..until now.

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I received news from a pilgrim friend that she intended to walk it in May 2018 with some of her friends. When asked if I would like to join them, naturally I jumped at the chance. While it is a pilgrimage, there are so many differences between walking in Spain and in Norway:

So what is St. Olav’s Way? –¬†St. Olav’s Way is¬†a pilgrimage¬†route to the¬†Nidaros Cathedral¬†in Trondheim,¬†the site of the tomb of St. Olav.¬†The main route is approximately 640 kilometres (400¬†mi) long. It starts in Oslo¬†and heads north up the Gudbrandsdal¬†valley, over the¬†Dovrefjell¬†mountains, and down the Oppdall¬†valleys to end at the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

What about accommodation?  РI have a lot to read up on this. All I know is accommodation at present is MUCH different to Spain. Spain offers cheap and plentiful albergues in most towns. There is no guarantee that there will be somewhere to lay your head in Norway so planning and booking ahead will be required. I have also purchased a sleeping mat and bivvy bag as there is a good chance we will be sleeping under the stars. I actually hope we do!

Will my packing list be different? РAt present, I am hoping to walking the final 10 days to Trondheim but that may change. My Lowe Alpine 35-45l bag should be fine for this trip however I will need to take sleeping outdoors into account. The temperatures will be colder than in Spain so warm clothes and raingear will be a priority. Also, I will need to take account that I will be carrying food with me. Here is a good example: http://pilegrimsleden.no/en/plan/pakkeliste

I have ordered Alison Raju’s¬†Pilgrim Road to Trondheim¬†guide book which is well recommended. I have a good few months to read up on the walk once I return from Spain in September, but I have already started the planning well in advance!

Some good links: