Our forebears in the Middle Ages believed that Finisterre at the outpost of Galicia in north-west Spain was the end of the world.
And they would carry their penitential pilgrimage, the 87kms to Santiago de Compostella on to Finisterre.
Well, if this is the end of the world I’m jumping right off. Gladly!
Here’s your ‘cut-out and keep’ guide to everything you want to know about Finisterre and the Camino…
Piper at the gates of heaven
Santiago to Finisterre, 87kms: What else would you expect at the Edge of the World? A Galician piper belts out a Celtic tune by the lighthouse at Finisterre, the westernmost post of their world.
A sign with the Camino shell, marks 0,00kms.
Many pilgrims continue on by foot from Santiago to Finisterre.
Wendy, my fellow peregrinos, take a three-hour coach ride from Santiago (€26 return) on our last day, Wednesday.
Any trip to the Edge of the World should not be rushed, there is much to see, from quiet coves to golden beaches and coastal villages.
With azure and terracotta-washed cottages.
As I look out on the horizon from atop the cliff on the clearest of clear days I can see why my Celtic predecessors refused to countenance that there could be anything beyond or above this.
The legend of the Camino
Santiago de Compostella, or ‘St James of the Field of Stars’, the name derives from the belief that the bones of St James the Greater were taken here from the Middle East to Spain.
Where he is reported to have preached earlier in his mission.
In 814AD Bishop Theodoric of Aria Flavia, is said to have been guided there by a shepherd who had been led to the bones by a star.
A church was built over the bones and later replaced with the Catedral de Santiago.
Pilgrims have been walking the Camino, originally from their own homes as a starting point. ever since, as a penance and to gain indulgence.
The Scallop Shell
When St James’s disciples were shipping his body to the Iberian Peninsula a storm is said to have hit the boat and his body was thought lost to the sea.
However, it washed ashore undamaged, coated by scallop shells.
Pilgrims display their shells for identification and are rewarded still with charity from locals.
Medieval pilgrims would also use them to scoop up drinking water: pilgrims take them home as keepsakes.
When to go
April-June, September-October: Galicia is at its most colourful with spring and autumn hues and the temperature is warm without being baking (late teens to early 20sC).
Winter is quieter and temperatures can dip to the early double figures.
Galicia is so verdant because of the rain so be prepared.
What to bring
Walking boots and socks, picking trousers (convertible with zip to make them shorts).
No jeans, they’re restrictive and will weigh you down in the rain and mark you out as a newbie.
Shirts (long-sleeved and t-shirts).
Walking stick (depending on agility and age).
Light rain jacket and polar fleece.
Sun hat, sunglasses, sun cream.
Water bottle, first aid (Paracetamol, competed blister plasters and anti-inflammatory cream).
How to prepare
Caminoways.com hold training walks throughout the year for different levels of walker.
Alternatively avail of the many walkways around the country which can be similar to the Galician terrain.
And do your basic stretching exercises before and after walks.
Where to eat/drink
Breakfasts in designated Caminoways.com hotels are buffet style. The large range of fruit is healthy and refreshing, bacon and sausages are thinner than Irish tastes while scrambled eggs are constantly light, fresh and tasty.
Cafe/bars on the Camino are well priced, a range of filled baguettes are around a fiver.
And wine and lager range from around @1-1.50 and while the costs increase the nearer to Santiago you get they are not prohibitive.
Hamlets and towns are well served for eating places.
And if you do stumble across a Queimada (a Galician ritual involving stirring a brew in a fiery cauldron) as I did at the Mandala restaurant in Rua Cima Do Lugar, Arzua then that’s a bonus.
I had their equivalent of an early bird of skag bol and wine which filled the plate, all for €6.
I always seize on calamari where I find it, but it’s pulp (octopus) which is Galicia’s speciality.
Sit on a stool and eat with fingers, mopping up the tomato sauce from the bowl with bread and swirling it down with a large red (at La Puerta, Santiago, €6.50).
Santiago is noted for Padron peppers, usually green where the random one is very hot…. Galician Roulette. I chickened out.
Where to stay
Alfonso IX, Rua Do Peregrino 29, 27600, Sarria (close to the river) Good starting point, good hotel sundries.
Pousada de Portomarin, 27170, Avda de Sarria, Portomarin. A welcome archway after the first day. A cosy stay, and ah, a bidet!
Complejo la Cabana C/Dr Pardo Ouro, 27200.
Palasd de Rei: A bit of a hike up town so a walk to restaurants if you choose not to eat at the hotel. There was a wedding on when I tased which was good of them to arrange for our evening entertainment.
Teodora, Avda de Lugo, 38 Arzua: Centrally located, comfortable and friendly.
Amenal 12, O Pino: One-horse hamlet but that’s OK after a 30km trek, and the stew is filling.
Santiago: HOtel Geimirez, Horreo 92, 15702: Ideally located close to the historic old town. A welcome and deserved bottomless tube at the end of your Camino.
The different ways
The French Way: Saint Jean to Santiago, 770km. Las leg: Sarria to Santiago, 116kms.
Portuguese Coastal Way: Porto to Santiago, 236km.
Northern Way: San Sebastian to Santiago, 806km.
Le Puy Way: Le Puy-en-Velay to Santiago, 713km.
What to read/watch
John Bierley: Camino de Santiago guide.
Lonely Planet: Walking in Spain.
Cicerone: Way of St James – Spain.
Everest: Camino de Santiago.
The Way starring Martin Sheen and James Nesbitt.
Who to go with/How to get there
I travelled with Caminoways.com http://www.caminoways.com and Aer Lingus http://www.aerlingus.com.
Caminoway organise guided and self-guided tours on the many routes across Spain, Portugal and France.
Prices start at €560pp sharing for a six-night Camino trip, walking the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago, including half-board, luggage transfers from hotel to hole and holiday pack with pilgrim passport and route information.
Airport transfers, hotel upgrades and bike rental are also available.
This year is a Holy Year for Pilgrims as declared by the Pope The Holy Door of the Cathedral will be open for the Year of Mercy.
And, of course everyone’s Camino is their Camino… This was mine A pilgrim’s prayer.
And this was my Via Francigena.. the last 100kms walk of which I did into Rome from Viterbo www.Francigenaways.com and Small roads lead to Rome.m
Heck, let’s go the whole hog and flag up Tenerife too and www.visitingtenerife.com and A walk through the ages… Tenerife.