January 19th 2016

The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St James, is once again Europe’s most well-trodden pilgrimage route, as it was a thousand years ago. Scallop shells waymark myriad trails, all leading to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where, it is said, the remains of the saint lie. By no means all the pilgrims of today are on a religious quest. Some are there for the joy of traveling; some on a personal and spiritual quest. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: 'Life is a journey, not a destination' and never is this more true than when hiking the Camino. Camino de Santiago Walking Vacations with The Wayfarers

Our seven-night walking tour is the perfect chance to get a taste of what Camino de Santiago veterans call a 'life-affirming' experience. Many people go back time and again, until they have walked every mile of the route from France. On our way we enjoy finding the 'real' Spain of the north, a world away from tourist beaches. We set off from the Castillian capital Burgos and its Gothic cathedral and before long we are seeing towns founded by the Romans and crossing a pilgrims’ bridge. We walk slopes thick with wildflowers and sip icy water from a village fountain, as so many pilgrims have done across the centuries. We’ll be greeted with Buen Camino! from other pilgrims and maybe as we walk together for a spell, we’ll spend some time finding out some of their stories. Dramatic lonely tracks lead us to a castle of the Templars and, passing tumbling mountain streams, we come upon a perfectly preserved ancient hilltop village. We’ll add our stones to the mountain created by other walkers from other times at the Cross of Hierro and then as our trip draws to a close, we will glimpse from afar the towers of Santiago, where before we say farewell, we can attend the noonday Pilgrim Mass in the cathedral. Traditional Doors in Camino de Santiago with The Wayfarers

Why the scallop shell? The symbol of St James, some say it’s the grooves of the scallop shell, an image carved, scratched and painted all along the Camino de Santiago, that represents the many paths all coming to meet at one point – Santiago de Compostela. Or perhaps it was this: On his return to Judea, James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, but his body was mysteriously returned to Spain, borne on a ship with no crew. A bridegroom (or maybe a knight) plunged into the sea after his horse was spooked by the 'ghost' ship, but a miracle happened and the horse and rider emerged from the waves, covered in cockleshells. Or maybe, just maybe, a scallop shell was a handy souvenir for pilgrims to pick up (for free) and slip into their packs, to prove that they had made it all the way to Santiago! Come with us on the Camino de Santiago this year and find out more.

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