El Camino Inglés, also known as Camino de Los Ingleses, originates at the north coast of Spain in Ferrol or A Coruña. This route can be traced all the way to the 12th century when it served as the main access route to Santiago for pilgrims coming from England, Scotland, Ireland and other Nordic countries. Nowadays, the English way is still well maintained and easily accessible, although the experience is bound to be rather solitary.
Comparing to other routes Camino Inglés is considerably shorter, the distance from Ferrol to Santiago being just 118km. Although A Coruña is considered other starting point, walking from this harbor town will not qualify you for the pilgrim’s certificate. To obtain one, you would need to conquer on foot at least 100km, and the route from A Coruña only rounds up to 74km.
The shorter distance requires the pilgrims to be a bit more pedant when it comes to collecting the stamps. Since walking only the minimum distance, the pilgrim’s office needs to be sure that the distance has indeed been walked and the certificate is deserved. Usually, two stamps per day are required. The first one-half way through the stage and the other one at the end.
- Overview of Route
From the geographical point of view, the route originates in Ártabro Gulf which is formed by the collection of sea inlets of A Coruña, Betanzos, Ares and Ferrol, located between the Costa da Morte to the south, and the Rías Altas to the east.
Neither the route from Ferrol nor the one starting in A Coruña offer you alternative paths, making the walk pretty straightforward. The two ways meet in Hospital de Bruma from where they continue to Santiago.
As per the Ferrol alternative, it might be worth mentioning though that a possibility to make a shortcut in the very first stage, crossing the Ría de Ferrol by the national road bridge. Nonetheless, given the route is relatively short as it is, we do not recommend it.
The first stage offers quite a few breathtaking seascapes and clandestine places. However, the experience is slightly affected by numerous roads, urban infrastructures as well as great navy and military facilities. The most interesting countryside awaits you during the 38km between Miño and Hospital de Bruma, which takes you through a rural, mountainous and a territory, sprinkled with small villages dedicated to both livestock and agriculture. Finally, the last part of the way, from Hospital de Bruma to Santiago, leads you mostly through quiet winding rural roads.
If we were to rank all the pilgrimages based on the difficulty, the English Way would somewhere in the middle, between the hard routes (like Camino Primitivo) and the undemanding ways (like Camino Portugués). The section with the most broken orography and a few notable ups and downs are the 28 km between Betanzos and Hospital of Bruma; The 20 km before that, from Pontedeume to Betanzos, there are also a few ascents and descents but of a more moderate character.
In this part of Spain, an efficient and straightforward waymarking is essential; otherwise, it would be impossible to advance quickly through a territory riddled with crossroads, forks in the road, intertwining forest tracks and local roads. This is another good reason to opt for Ferrol-Santiago route.
The waymarking between Ferrol and Santiago is very good, signaled by the classic milestones with shell symbol and painted yellow arrows. However, if starting from A Coruña, leaving the city behind can leave you quite confused.
- Cities & Distances
From Ferrol, the route passes through counties of Neda, Fene, Cabanas, Pontedeume, Miño, Paderne, Betanzos, Abegondo, Mesía, Ordes, Oroso and Santiago. The A Coruña alternative takes you through Culleredo, Cambre, Carral, Abegondo and Mesía, where it unites with Ferrol itinerary. The services along the route are distributed pretty evenly. Thus it is unlikely you will find yourself stranded without food or water in the middle of nowhere.
- When To Go
As for the weather, the Camino Inglés is accessible at any time of the year, since the proximity of the sea both moderate the cold in winter and ease the heat in summer. However, due to its exposure to the Atlantic, it is also the route with the rainiest days. Going 5 or 6 days without a shower is unlikely.
There are dedicated pilgrim albergues in Neda, Pontedeume, Miño, Betanzos, Presedo and Bruma and other affordable alternatives are available in Ferrol, A Coruña, Pontedeume, Betanzos, Ordenes, and Sigueiro. Although evenly distributed, the accommodation is not sufficient during the busiest periods (Easter holidays, July and August). The most critical places that desperately need an albergue are Ferrol and Sigüeiro (which often transforms the local sports center into a shelter for pilgrims with reservation) while the albergue in Bruma is calling for an extension.
- What to See
Despite being short in distance, the route it is not short on historical sites. There are numerous medieval churches, chapels, and ruins along the way.
If starting in or making a detour through A Coruña, do not miss the Roman Lighthouse (Tower of Hercules). Leaving from Ferrol, be sure to visit the monastery church in Xubia as well as the Church of Santiago and the church or San Miguel de Breamo in Pontedeume. Hospital de Bruma offers a medieval chapel of San Lourenzo while Lambre is known for a medieval bridge.
- Best Guide Books
One of the best guidebooks available is the The Camino Inglés (Pilgrim Guides to Spain # 7) by John Walker. You can either purchase a hard copy or download a free up-to-date PDF version online. If you are up for something more modern, there is a handy app ‘Camino Inglés – A Wise Pilgrim Guide’ (available for both iPhones and iPads) which provides current information about the route, services, and albergues.
- Travel Along The Route
For a flight, bus, and train connection check out goeuro.com, which lists the cheapest available links from multiple transport companies. Alternatively, you can look up connections at Monbus, Arriva or Alsa which also operate in the region. Nonetheless, it is not advised to skip stages by bus unless you have serious (health) reasons as you can lose the right to the pilgrim certificate.
- Why Camino Inglés?
If you only have a few days to spare, if you don’t like demanding terrain or, simply if you are not a huge fun of staggering heat, Camino Inglés might be just the route for you. It takes no more than a five days to conquer, the air will always stay fresh, and terrain gives you nothing to be worried about. Although it has become more and more popular over the years, it still offers one of the most solitary authentic experiences. Part of the authenticity is the lack of English along the way, so you might need to brush up on your Spanish skill so you can ask about directions, accommodation or other handy services.