Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims taking the many Caminos, or Ways of St James, always end up at Santiago de Compostela and gather in the Cathedral to be blessed. A few carry on to the Atlantic Coast, feeling that this westernmost part of Europe is a more fitting end to their journey. Indeed this was an ancient spiritual route, long before the Catholic Church commandeered it for its own purposes. They were drawn to the sunset at what was then the end of the known world. That’s how it got its name – the Latin “Finis Terrae” translates as Finisterre.

Finisterre sunset
Finisterre sunset (c) Rupert Parker
I’ve already walked the classic Camino Frances (The French Way), from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and was disappointed by the crowds of people on the trail. When I set out from the city going west, numbers are far fewer, and it’s an altogether more pleasurable experience. It’s going to take three days to get to Cape Finisterre and then another couple of days to the fishing village of Muxia, a place once sacred to the Celts.

Santiago de Compostela to Negreira
In late October, there’s a moist drizzle as I negotiate my way out of Santiago but I’m soon plunged into oak woods with the bracken turning all shades of brown. The route takes me through tiny hamlets, crammed with Hórreos, distinctive stone granaries raised on pillars above the ground, still used for storing corn husks.

Hórreos (c) Rupert Parker
Three quarters into my first day I reach the charming medieval town of Ponte Maceira, named after its distinctively arched 14th century bridge spanning the Río Tambre.

Ponte Maceira
Ponte Maceira (c) Rupert Parker
My destination is the town of Negreira, a sleepy little place, although it does have the Pazo do Cotón, a 14th century medieval fortress. It once formed part of the city walls and it makes a fitting exit as I set off next morning.

Pazo do Cotón
Pazo do Cotón (c) Rupert Parker
Rain is forecast, even though it starts sunny, and the clouds open as I climb out of the town. Unlike the Camino Frances, cafes and bars are in short supply, so there’s little shelter.

Abeleiroas to Fisterra
In the morning, there’s a change in the weather and sun is poking through the clouds. Most of the day’s walking is now on dirt tracks, giving my feet a welcome rest, and the first part follows the Xallas River, lying in the valley below. I climb steadily to the tiny hamlet of Hospital, named because it once provided care for pilgrims and then reach a crossroads. The right branch goes to Muxia, but my way leads left to Finisterre. There’s a pair of battered boots balanced on the stone marker, but no sign of the owner.