Camino is the Spanish word for path so there are actually many Caminos all over the world and being aware of this fact, if you didn’t know it before, may mean you come across them so much more now.
The Camino that is best known is the Camino de Santiago, translated as the ‘path of St James’ and also ‘the way of St James’.
It’s a path I first read about in the 1980s when I read a book called ‘Clear Waters Rising’ by Nicolas Crane. He started a long journey in Santiago and from then I was intrigued…and perhaps even hooked. I started my Camino in 2008 and as I was walking it in sections due to my lifestyle, I decided to start it in the centre of France in Le Puy en Velay thus making it 1000 miles.
I fell in love with it on this first section and at that time knew that I wanted to share this with small groups of women. I could see that by taking them away from distractions and interruptions in this amazing scenery that we could do amazing work.
The Camino is a pilgrimage journey and it was much walked in the Middle Ages. Then a number of different happenings – the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe – led to its decline. In October 1987, the route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe; it was also named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and since then it’s been enjoying a resurgence.
In the middle ages, it was walked from a religious perspective with pilgrims going to visit the shrine of the apostle St James in the cathedral in Santiago. Of course, many people still walk it because of this, however, many now walk it as a challenge; as a spiritual journey; a way of finding themselves and getting clarity and because they love walking/trekking/hiking.
Whenever St. James’s Day (25 July) falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Holy Year, the next one being in 2021 when the path is likely to be even busier than normal.
The Camino de Santiago is actually a network of paths all leading to Santiago, with the Camino Frances being the most popular closely followed by the Central Camino Portuguese route. In Spring this year, I walked the Coastal Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago.
I feel very blessed to lead wonderful women on these paths and I get to see and experience so much. I always see new things and always get that chill of excitement as I walk into the square. My favourite sections are not necessarily the last ones, I actually love the part in France, less walked and less commercial.
‘Caminos’, ‘chemins’ in France and ‘paths’ anywhere are a joy to be able to walk and there are so many trails world wide. On my bucket list is Hadrian’s Wall and the Norfolk Coast Path, some of which I ticked off this summer as well as walking right round Wales. Then of course there is the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalacian Trail in the USA and then other famous ones like the Inca Trail, Mont Blanc Trek and the Great Wall of China.