Page 1 of 2

Camino of St James

Posted: 28 Aug 2017, 12:03pm
by simonineaston
Does anyone know anything about this route / practice / tradition, call it what you like? I understand from a brief look aroud that it's a long-established pilgrim's route, predating Christianity and therefore presumably St James...). I learn that people walk it, cycle it and even share the route with a donkey. Any comments?

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 28 Aug 2017, 12:26pm
by meic
A search on the word Camino shows 28 pages of posts on the subject.
Lots to trawl through for you.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 28 Aug 2017, 6:43pm
by John Holiday
I cycled from Pamplona to Santiago a couple of years ago & thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
Not so many cycling as opposed to walking, but great friendliness all along..
Lots of excellent places to stay at modest prices.
The Confraternity of St James in London has lots of information available.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 28 Aug 2017, 7:18pm
by simonineaston
Cheers John :-)
I've been continuing to search, both this forum and more widely and have found, of all things, an American-produced movie, which is supposed to be quite true to life. It's called The Way and stars Martin Sheen & his son Emilio Estevez. Neither travel by bike, tho'! ;-)

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 28 Aug 2017, 9:58pm
by dodger
Have a look at Cicerone Guide books. There's one by John Higginson which details the cyclist's guide to the Camino - called "The Way of St James".
The charity devoted to the Pilgrim routes is and they have lots of info and links.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 29 Aug 2017, 8:00am
by HobbesOnTour
Try also - it's a discussion forum on all Caminos, including a section on biking.

Taking the Way of St. James, there are a variety of different routes, although the "Frances" is by far and above the most popular.

You also need to consider whether to follow the pilgrim's (walking) route* or take the roads. If the former, then you really need to consider your bike carefully - it's rough!

Finally, will you consider yourself a pilgrim and look to receive a Compestela (certificate of completion), stay in the pilgrim hostels (Alberges) etc.

It's a fantastic experience, but bear in mind that a major appeal of the traditional Camino is the relationships that develop along the route. Given that so few cyclists do it, and that a lot who do seem to be already in groups, biking the Camino can be more difficult in this context.

Read up on the history of it, the geography of the routes and if it appeals, do it! If it doesn't, I can heartily recommend cycling in Northern Spain - it's fantastic!

* if you choose to cycle the walking route, allow for a low average speed - the path can be crowded at certain times of the year. Also, please remember it is a pilgrim route - not a MTB route to build up some Strava cred.

Buen Camino


Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 29 Aug 2017, 9:58am
by HarryD
The Camino is the route that you take to Santiago so it can be very personal. There are way-marked marked routes throughout Europe that will get you there but there is nothing to stop you doing your own. Just leave the front door and walk or pedal.

Clearly the pilgrim hostels provide basic but good and cheap accommodation and will be found along the main routes. But to use many of these you will need a pilgrims passport which is available from the CSJ website.

The recognised routes came about because the Church promoted Santiago as a pilgrimage site when Rome and Jerusalem were not practicable. As there was nothing there before Saint James shrine there were no prior pilgrimages. Pilgrims generally followed existing paths and tracks to travel from accommodation to accommodation. Some of the recognised routes do follow sections of Roman road but even these probably followed existing trade routes.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 29 Aug 2017, 5:01pm
by simonhill
Difficult to answer a tell me all post, there is loads of info out there as this is one of the most famous walks or cycles in Europe.

I cycled it from St Jean Pied de Porte on the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago back in 1993. I planned the trip after seeing a TV program where Roy Castle walked it. I loved it.

We rode early no suss MTBs and took full camping gear but never used it as we always stayed in the refugios (Pilgrim hostels).It took 13 days for about 500kms in early May. We experienced snow and heavy rain and a bit of heat. Most of it was interesting with some big hills, but there was also a long boring stretch of plains, which were OK on a bike, but tedious on foot I imagine. We followed the actual Camino as much as possible. Not sure if you can still do this on a bike. We also met a guy from California doing it on a road bike, who stuck mainly to the roads,

We got our pilgrim passports stamped at all the places. We then got mentioned in a service in the Cathedral in Santiago and got our Compostellas (certificates) which also means all my sins were absolved to that point.

One highlight was a wall with 2 taps. One dispensed water, the other red wine. Great, but the wine was not the best choice for a very hot lunchtime.

The film you mention is OK as a film and shows some good scenery. A bit unrealistic as he decided to do the walk with no training and just went out and bought some boots and other gear.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 31 Aug 2017, 10:06am
by willem jongman
There is a lot of academic literature on the subject, but since this is presumably about cycling it, I can refer you to two fully described routes by the Dutch cycle Touring club Europafietsers (including gps tracks):
Langs Oude Wegen (Along Ancient Roads): ... rimssteden
St Jacob fietsroute (st James cycle route): ... fietsroute
To my mind the first (Langs Oude Wegen) will be the more interesting one, but the second (flatter) one is chosen by many Dutch, often retired, people. I am planning to do Langs Oude Wegen next year. It was our orignal plan fo rthis year, but for practical reasons we opted to ride another route this summer, the route to Girona/Barcelona by Paul Benjaminse: Having done this one, my guess is the Barcelona route is probably the nicest of them all (but also the hardest if you take the variant across the Massif Central, as we did). You then need to use something like this ... fietsroute to take you to get you to the western end of the Pyrenees (this one is apparently pretty tough, but by the time you get there you will be pretty fit).

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 1 Sep 2017, 2:17am
by simonineaston
Thanks for a nice mini pen portrait, Simon - I especially like this news! How has that worked out for you - did you notice a difference?!
simonhill wrote:...which also means all my sins were absolved to that point.
At this stage of investigation, I can't make up my mind whether the camino is going to be something I'm interested in - one of it's attarctions seems to be the social side of walking and on the other hand, it's a jolly long way to walk and with quite a lot of rather tedious sections. Much better to travel by bike, but in doing so, potentially miss something of the social bonding... I shall continue to read all about it - thanks to all who linked me to stuff :-) I'd forgotten I bought Tim Moore's book some months ago and it's been sitting on my book shelf, wiating for me to remember!

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 1 Sep 2017, 10:09am
by HarryD
Simon, having cycled several of the marked ways I found that the deep and memorable social interactions happened in the evenings over meals and during downtime. Walking, even in a group, is often very solitary especially if tired, blistered etc.

To be honest I'd forgotten about Tim Moore. Something doesn't ring quite true with his writing. Tend to agree with the one & two star reviews of his books. A far better book on travelling through Spain is Cees Nooteboom's Roads to Santiago. Not always easy going and not a commentary on the Camino

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 5 Sep 2017, 8:53am
by dodger
If you can still find it, "Pilgrim's Road" by Bettina Selby is a good read and has lots of local flavour and gentle humour.
Published in 1995 by Abacus.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 6 Sep 2017, 7:30pm
by robert32asp
I cycled Pamplona to Santiago in May 2016. It was a great experience, but rugged and challenging.

It is a wonderful trip. Leave two to three weeks to do the trip in by bike. The thing is that about 200,000 people a year cycle, or hike the Camino. Most on the Camino Francis and most in a few peak summer months. More of them start closer to Santiago than farther away. To earn a Compostella, you need to bike the last 200 km to Santiago or hike the last 100 km. The wonderful thing is that just about everyone you meet is either doing or has done the Camino and you can identify and bond with each other. The entire economy is set up to provide pilgrims what everything they could possibly need, food, lodging, medical care, gear, massages, snacks along the Way, luggage transfers (especially on days where you are going to gain a lot of elevation) etc. Every roadside bar will stamp your pilgrim passport (that you need to get an official on best from the Santiago Cathedral by mail so you can use the public hostels/Arlburges).

Now the downsides. Depending on the time of year, you should expect rain during about a third of the days you are traveling. To do the trip without being a tourist and without attending church services, would in my opinion be a mistake, so plan some rest days and some slack time for bad weather.

Another thing is that for parts of the year (and especially the last 100 km) the trail is really crowded with hikers and so for some of it you will want to use the roads rather than the official trail. I did some of each. The nice part is that for much of the Way, the hiking path is parallel to B-road. Whoever laid out the official yellow arrow hiking path (and it changes from year to year) like to take it up and over most hills as opposed to going around them.

Parts of the route are very old and you can travel on Roman roads and cobble stones. Some of them are nearly death traps for narrow tired bike. Parts of the trail/Way also become creek beds with flowing water during rainstorms and muddy as all get out.

One of the best biking experiences I have had mostly because of the people and accommodations.

I took the Higgins book and it is good, but it has some very well defined stages. You are probably better off staying at other places as they will be less crowded. Alternately,


Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 6 Sep 2017, 8:25pm
by simonhill
A couple of things about timing.

If St James' Day (25th July) falls on a Sunday it is a holy year and the route will probably be busier.

Many people try to arrive/be in Santiago on St James' Day, so that period and is very busy.

When I rode it in May, albeit a long time ago, it was a holy year and there were plenty of walkers on the early stages (ie planning to reach Santiago by the Day). As I was on a bike I soon passed them and there were less people further on. It got busy again near to Santiago with the coach trip pilgrims who walk just a few kms.

Re: Camino of St James

Posted: 7 Sep 2017, 9:47pm
by LindaB
My husband and I cycled the Camino from Pamplona to Santiago in 2008. This was before the 2 movies came out - and I've heard there are many more people on the walking route, still haven't heard about more cyclists. I bought lots of books and spent a lot of time planning, and learned that it isn't easy to cycle on the exact walking route due to terrain as well as narrow trails. We often were on nearby small roads

Here's a link to a blog of our trip:
We had a wonderful time! Purchased hybrid bikes for this trip - I wouldn't want to attempt it on road bike tires! At the time of our trip, cyclists couldn't get a room at the refugios (like hostels) until evening (after 8 pm I think), so we reserved hotel rooms. The language of the Camino for the most part was English - we shared "Pilgrim meals" (lower budget, served earlier than typical Spanish dinners) with people from all around the world. We felt it truly was the "Main Street of Europe" as we'd heard it described.