River Spey

Hiking the Speyside Way

When you want to get away from it all and enjoy the beauty of nature, there’s perhaps nowhere better to do it than on the 100 kilometres or more of the Speyside Way.

Tucked away in a quiet part of the country, it follows the River Spey as it twists and turns on its way to the sea. With acres of wild parkland to be explored along the way, you’ll have everything you’ve ever wanted and more from your next walking holiday.

How to Remove a Tick Head after the Body is Gone

When you’re enjoying a great walk in the hills or countryside, it probably feels like nothing can bring down your mood. The sun is shining, your legs are feeling great, and those new hiking boots have certainly cured your blisters. But then you notice a sharp pain in your leg, you look down, and see that you’ve fallen victim to a tick bite. They might seem like tiny innocuous little pests, but they certainly pack a punch. The venom they boast can cause all sorts of nasty complications (including partial paralysis and life-threatening fever), so you need to make sure you know what to do. Take a look at the following wise words and you’ll be well prepared should the worst happen.

House in the mountains

The Best Long Distance Hiking Routes in Scotland

There’s something about long-distance hikes that feels very soothing. Walking for days on end and not worrying about anything other than how to get from one place to the next has a very simple, relaxing charm to it, and hiking enthusiasts know all about how energizing it can be. If you decide to visit one of the countries with the most beautiful, untouched nature on top of it? Well, you’re in for a wonderful experience.

West Highland Way

West Highland Way

For those who are passionate about hiking, scenic nature walks are almost a form of meditation. You put one foot in front of the other, breathe in deeply, and let all the worries melt away as you take in the sights around you. Finding beautiful trails and walking the whole length of them is almost a thing of pride, and if there’s one trail that’s difficult to top, it’s the West Highland Way.

Hiking in woods

Best Starting Points for One Week on the Camino de Santiago

The Pilgrimage to Santiago is a one of a kind experience. While many would love to walk the entire way, it is not always easy to get away from our day-to-day duties and responsibilities for a whole month. So here following on from the post listing the best start points for two weeks on the Camino is the best start points for one week.

Rather than giving up the journey altogether, many pilgrims opt to undertake a shorter one-week version of the Camino.

When the time is limited, people want to make the most of the experience. Thus, the pressing question on the minds of to-be one-week pilgrims is that of the best starting point.

Where should you kick off your journey to get the best of the Camino de Santiago in a short period of seven days?

Porto

Two Weeks on the Camino de Santiago

A quick trip is not something you can expect from Camino de Santiago. With routes going up to several hundred kilometers, a pilgrimage typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks on foot.

If you don’t have the luxury to travel for extended periods, or if you’re unable (or don’t want) to walk long distances, you can still do the Camino.

Leslie and bunk beds

Did You Lose Weight on the Camino?

I lost about 8kgs, about 18 lbs, over a four week period. So yes I did lose a lot of weight on the Camino.

However, losing weight was never one of my reasons for walking. I did not set out on the Camino to lose weight and I must admit that it never entered into my mind at any time while I was there.

Camino people

How the Magic of the Camino de Santiago Changed Me

It is my belief that the Camino always has something to teach us, whether subtle or profound.

Those effects may be conscious throughout your journey, or more of a seed that grows slowly into our awareness long after our return. This is not my first time on the Camino, my 3rd tour to be exact, but each time I have come back ‘changed’…

Trekking poles

Best Trekking Poles for 2019

Having the right gear makes walking in such wonderful surroundings – whether you’re tackling the Camino or any other long distance hike – far more enjoyable. Well-fitting hiking shoes or boots are part of the deal, as is a light yet strong backpack, and for me, another essential is a set of trekking poles.

Cruz

Cruz de Ferro: A Spiritual Experience

People who’ve already walked the Camino de Santiago know that there’s one thing that should absolutely not be missed — the Cruz de Ferro. Also known as the Iron Cross, it is set on a gently sloping hill that also happens to be the highest point of the French Way.

The views offered from up top are incredible indeed, and the legends behind it are enough to spark the imagination of any history buff who’s looking for their next adventure. But most of all, the respectful peace of this spot is spiritually uplifting even for the non-religious, and travelers who long to see something unique that reflects much of the Camino spirit should definitely make a stop here.

insulated mattress

Best Sleeping Pads for Camping and Backpacking

When you set out on a long backpacking journey, you need to always make sure you have the best gear available. You have your hiking boots or hiking shoes, your backpack, and you need to take with you a comfortable, lightweight and effective sleeping pad. This is a very important item when you are intending to camp, as it gives you a level of comfort that cannot be attained otherwise.

Camino Frances

Hiking the Camino Frances Again

I first heard about the Camino de Santiago from a friend whom I went on a yearly trek with. We had climbed the peaks Mt. Chirropo in Costa Rica, went to the depths of the earth together to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and hiked the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Camino route

Inspiration to Walk the Camino de Santiago

The Camino forum was an amazing resource for me when researching the Camino de Santiago. I did the full Camino Frances as well as the Camino del Norte in 2013 with my guitar. In May of 2014, I did 4 days of the Camino de Madrid to Segovia and I’ll be doing the Camino Primitivo route this July.

Santiago de Campostela

The Pilgrims Road to Santiago

As I sat on the rustic Spanish bench alongside the Camino trail, I looked down at my two bruised and blue big toenails, free at last to wiggle in fresh mountain air from the containment of my Vasque hiking boots. Then I thought “how am I going to do this for another 5 weeks?”

Cholm Cille

Pilgrim Routes in Ireland

Long before the discovery of St. James’ relics, there was Cruachan Aille in Ireland. The sacred grounds had been there since 3,000 BC and attracted pilgrims from all over Europe. Pagans frequented the area and so did early Christians when it was popularized by St. Patrick. When Camino de Santiago became famous, the ancient pilgrimage was sadly forgotten in favor of Spain’s. Memories of these medieval footpaths aren’t completely lost, however, and revivalists are attempting to reclaim the pilgrim routes of Ireland.

Santiago arrow

Is It Safe Walking the Camino de Santiago Alone?

One of the most common questions I am asked – is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone?  This became a question being asked more again recently when someone went missing on the Camino. However my opinion remains unchanged – yes, it is safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. I would think it safer than most local walking routes in most countries; safer than walking home from Dublin or any large city on a Friday or Saturday night.

Shell stones

Hiking the Camino for Charity

Have you thought about it?  

I know there are many pilgrims or future pilgrims out there that have had this idea. 

Is it possible?

Is it easy?

I’ve done it and I want to share my experience with you.  All the in’s and out’s.  All the up’s and down’s.  All the pro’s and con’s.  And my strategy to raise money also.   I hope this will help those who are thinking about walking the Camino for charity, because I know there are a lot of you out there, and I know that it is worth it. 

Leslie & Anna Camino

A Typical Day on the Camino

My typical day on the Camino de Santiago started about 6am. I was a mature student before hiking the on the Camino de Santiago for the first time; at that time I would have been doing well if I was awake before 9am, (I had got into student life and loved it). So six in the morning was initially shocking, however, I easily got used to the early morning.

Santiago

Newbie Mistakes & Advice for the Camino de Santiago

To be honest, I wanted to get your attention with the title of this blog post. I guess it worked if you are reading this now 🙂

Great. Now that we are here I would like to clear something up which is of high importance to me.

The word “mistake” in the blog title is not really right. I rather try to see things as experiences and experiments instead of mistakes. This gives more space and helps us to go out and try more things because we are not so afraid of failure.

Camino with children

Walking the Camino de Santiago with Children

Walking the Camino is without a doubt an extraordinary experience – but what about walking the Camino de Santiago with children?

An escape, an adventure in time where too many things are planned out and controlled. But it’s not always easy to get away, especially if you are taking care of more than yourself. Perhaps you have been dreaming about this.

Dining room table

Why Walk the Camino de Santiago

In 2004 I first walked the Camino Frances the main Camino de Santiago route; I first wrote this article in 2009 and thought it could do with some updating.

I was a student at the time and I wanted to do something different during the summer, something interesting – I am not one for lying on a beach and prefer to be active. One of my college mates had walked from Holland to Santiago de Compostela a few years before and he kept going on about this “Camino de Santiago” – to me it sounded horrible, walking all day across Spain in the height of the summer heat, carrying my own clothes, sleeping in a hostel every night with people I did not know. No thanks.

Des O'Dowd Camino

Celebrate Your Retirement and Walk The Camino!

I retired on the 1st of September 2008 and I wanted to celebrate my new life and new freedom. The Camino de Santiago was the challenge and adventure I needed. So in late September, like children going on a school tour, myself and my fellow retiree Pat McEvoy arrived in Dublin Airport with our rucksacks packed. We flew to Biarritz and two hours later were in the beautiful village of St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. Our adventure had begun.

Camino del Norte

How Long is the Camino de Santiago Distance?

One of the most common questions I am asked when I speak about the Camino is how long is the Camino de Santiago in kilometers and miles. Usually, I just answer by saying 780 kilometers – though if the person is very interested I will get into explaining that there are many different routes in Spain and lots of other Camino routes throughout Europe leading to and joining the main routes in France and Spain, so the distance is relevant to each Camino de Santiago route .

Pyrenees

Reasons to Walk the Camino de Santiago

You have to be fairly motivated to walk the Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain – as it is 800km.  Usually 800km with your rucksack on your back containing everything you need for a month.  Sleeping in hostels with strangers, communal showers, and no privacy.

Pilgrims on the Way of St James

How Fit do You have to be to Walk the Camino?

I think I am a terrible example of getting fit before walking the Camino de Santiago.  I walked only once for about 3 hours, with a rucksack, to see how I would be walking before going to Spain.  I did have some hill walking experience, though not a lot.  I would have walked in the Wicklow hills about twice per month in the two years previous to my first Camino, that was it in total.

Mens boots

How to Choose the Best Hiking Boots

It’s important to have the right footwear for your level of hiking, more so if you are going on a walking holiday or a long distance walk like the Camino de Santiago, (and the right backpack and waterproofs). Different styles are more suitable for different levels than others.

Backpack fitting

How to Choose a Backpack for the Camino de Santiago

After choosing the best hiking boots or hiking shoes for your feet, a backpack is the second most important piece of equipment you need for walking any of the Camino routes (see Camino packing list).  Bear in mind this humble backpack is going to hold all your belonging for a month, sometime more.

Beldorado

Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

12th August, 2017:  Leaving Santo Domingo at 7.45 am, we thought we had made a good head start on the sun.
Fools! We should have left at least an hour earlier. We walked 23 kilometers today on a fairly easy route of gravel paths, tarmac in places, which ran most of the way parallel to the N120. There were no major height differences;  240 meters in ascent, 100 meters in descent. Easy peasy, apart from the fact temperatures hit 38 degrees, and we were walking in an area with absolutely no shade.

Meseta Camino

The Meseta on the Camino de Santiago Spain

‘Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon’, I heard on my first day on the Camino de Santiago. I was shocked. I thought most people were keen to walk the full route, either in stages or as a single pilgrimage. Whilst setting out to walk and enjoy the whole 800km, the Meseta was the section I was looking forward to with anticipation. I became curious as to what my experience would be.

Leslie & Anna Camino

Finding Love on the Camino de Santiago

Love was the last thing I expected to find on the Camino de Santiago. But I did and twelve years later our son is nearly three years old. Therefore I thought this would be a good time for this post.
I set out expecting a journey with few people, and I expected those few to be a bit odd, or older religious types – well it was a pilgrimage, not your usual holiday. Expectations are interesting phenomena, I don’t know about you, but my expectations of future events are usually completely wrong.

Women at Camino

Najera to Santo Domingo Commando on the Camino

11th August 2017 – The title of this blog post came about as one of us, whom shall remain nameless, wore ill-fitting shorts which became very uncomfortable as the kilometers clocked up.  Today the only comfort gained would be from wearing a skirt and going commando. So for any ladies reading this a walking skirt could be a useful addition to your Camino attire.  Your dignity will be kept intact while your nether regions can breathe.  However, just be careful the skirt is of a decent length, as you don’t want to be arrested for flashing.

Camino Frances

Why You Need to Walk the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago is one of the most popular pilgrimages and general hiking destinations on the planet. That’s no coincidence. There are some great reasons to walk Camino de Santiago. We’ll get into some of them, but remember, there are even more.

Camino group

Blisters, Bedbugs and Backaches – Finding Clarity on the Camino

In May 2012, I clicked SEND and put in play a turn of events and a journey that would change my life forever. In my sixth decade and in good health, I knew this was the time. With that SEND, I purchased my air ticket to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. While I had heard a little about the Camino over the years, it was a book by Guy Thatcher called A Journey of Days that really whet my appetite. I thought “I can do this!” and I promptly began reading and researching everything about the Camino. With each new piece of information, I knew my fate was sealed and I was compelled to go.

Shoe shelf

A Sense of Community on the Appalachian Trail and Camino de Santiago

“Hey man, is there any way you can come hike with me on the Appalachian Trail?” I anxiously asked all my close friends.

“No, I’ve gotta’ work,” was the response I invariably received.

“Well, how bout’ just going for a week or two,” I virtually pleaded with most of them.

I was distraught. Fortunately the story has a happy ending. For the minute I stepped foot onto America’s most popular footpath, it became clear that the Appalachian Trail Community runs wide and deep. Approximately 3,000,000 hikers per year hike some part of it each year. Amongst that three million are approximately 2,000 thru-hikers.  These are people attempting to hike the entire 2,181 mile trail from Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine in one hiking season. Thru-hikers usually begin their hikes in late March or early April. Anybody beginning in that time frame is virtually assured of being in the midst of a ‘bubble’ of hikers for the entire fourteen states.

Camino Frances

How to Live Your Life

The inspiration for this post came at the end of the video below.  However as I get older I think more about how to live, perhaps because I am more aware of death.  On the Camino direction is easy, just follow the yellow arrows – but what then after finishing?

Molina

Memories of the Camino de Santiago

If I could for a moment, bring you on a journey to Santa Catalina de Samoza. It is on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain to the body of St. James. It is Monday, June 16th, 2014. It is hot; while I walk carefully along the dusty trail with tensor bands on my knees and walking sticks in my hands I spy with my little eye a church steeple.

Camino route

The Days before arriving at Santiago de Compostela

It’s easy to find out how to start off on the trek along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There are lots of inspiring pictures showing happy pilgrims making those final steps toward the Cathedral’s double stairway at the end of their pilgrimage. What happens between those two milestones?  I’d like to tell you how to handle that intermediary period, the days when you are working toward your physical, mental, and spiritual goals.

sunflowers

A Pilgrims View of Santiago de Compostela

It was where I was heading, as was everyone else on this pilgrimage across northern Spain. Each city was different, Leon is a pleasure, Burgos has a dreadful 9km walk through the industrial part of the city. Pamplona was too early to take much notice of, I was only walking a few days and my legs were sore, my feet had blisters, and my rucksack was far too heavy. Before leaving Pamplona I made sure my backpack was lighter.

Camino Finisterre Walking Towards the End of the World

Since the Middle Ages, the roads that lead to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain have sustained their popularity.

I undertook this journey in July 2015 setting out from St Jean Pied du Port in France. After four weeks, I arrived into Santiago to a glorious fanfare.

Santiago is a city steeped in history and beauty. The buzz here is infectious. Pilgrims are in a high state of elation having completed their Camino. It is easy to lose oneself here for a few days among the meandering old streets, outdoor restaurants and simply soaking in the atmosphere of this beautiful city.

It is easy to lose oneself in Santiago for a few days among the meandering old streets, outdoor restaurants and simply soaking in the atmosphere of this beautiful city.

The Pilgrims

Camino de Santiago Statistics (2004 – 2016)

Every person walking the Caminos has a different story. When walking it is enchanting to listen to the tangled, exciting or boring stories of other people. In fact, there is no usual story.  Equally interesting it is to have a look at the Camino de Santiago statistics.

Who is actually walking the route? Has it changed over the years? Why are people walking?

Statistics used are from the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago. It doesn’t include people who did not register and people who did not collect the Compostela after arriving in Santiago de Compostela.

Sculpture

What is a Pilgrim?

The first thing that comes to mind when I ask myself what is a pilgrim is Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s partying crowd, or of Homer in the Odyssey.

I associate the words pilgrim and pilgrimages as belonging to a bygone era.

Going on a pilgrimage in the middle ages was often the only form of travel that was acceptable, therefore, those seeking adventure could legitimately travel across countries.

Cirauqui Villamajor de Monjardin 26 Fuente de Irache

Transitioning from Camino Life to Real Life

After a couple Camino’s and seeing dozens of pilgrims having a hard time with the Camino Blues, I think it is worth a writing an article about.  I am certainly no professional, but someone who has experienced the transition back to “The Real World” after the Camino twice.

Oveido

Saint Jean Pied de Port to Hendaye then Hondarribia to Oveido

This section wasn’t strictly the Compostela/ Camino. One of our hosts who only allowed you to stay if you carried your pack the whole way told us it would be fine to do this by train, but while we intended to take it a bit easier we walked.

The weather was extraordinary. An early summer had hit the region. No snow and brilliant blue skies and 28 C (75 F). In Biddarray on the first night, we went to Hotel Ostape (amazing. We did take the golf cart down the drive) and I even went swimming. Lush green pasture, rugged mountains and people that seemed to think we should speak Basque. Certainly, if you strayed a meter over the border they no longer spoke French and we hadn’t got our Spanish phrase book yet.

Aubrac

Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port

This section, on the Le Puy Camino, took us to the wind swept plains of the Aubrac. Cold, I got frostbite on my nose which took weeks to heal but no snow and so we were able to cross through one of the worst marked sections. Thankfully we had a GPS and a thermos.

Le Puy

Le Chemin de St Jacques – Cluny to Le Puy

It seemed we were destined to walk the Camino. Well, in retrospect. I had six months long service leave and we had a house in France. Okay we could have stayed and enjoyed the local food, wine and terroire but from the first time we saw the scallop shell on a lamp post in Tramayes, which our house is on the outskirts of, we were hooked. Enough to do a one day course back home that told us the dos and don’ts of the Camino, to buy some books and watch a video or two.