Scattering my father’s ashes in Santiago de Compostela

We are in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela to scatter our father’s ashes. He and my youngest sister had planned to walk the Camino, which finishes here at the resting place of Saint James, to mark the start of her adulthood and the beginning of his retirement. Instead, my two sisters have been walking the ancient pilgrims’ route for the past few weeks. I’ve flown into the city to meet them at the end. Most of Dad’s ashes went into a smart Regency tea caddy. The funeral directors had offered us a standard-issue urn but we decided he’d prefer something jolly and Georgian. The lacquered box didn’t quite

The pagan pleasures of Spain’s Finisterre

It was starting to feel rather spooky on the pathway to Finisterre. Only two days before I’d been in the celebratory environs of Santiago de Compostela with its endless arrivals of jubilant pilgrims. Now dark clouds were scudding across the Galician hills in the distance and the only sound I could hear was the wind blowing – in an accusatory manner, it seemed – through the trees beside me. While Santiago de Compostela marks the official end of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, with the purported remains of St James the apostle in the basement of its cathedral, a minority of hardy souls continue for another 86 kilometres to

The curious rhythm of life in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela

Surely no other city can claim to have so many backpacks and walking sticks on its narrow cobbled streets. In Spain’s Santiago de Compostela it always looks like there is a giant hiking convention going on. These aren’t your average ramblers, though. They are pilgrims, as the city marks the end of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The Camino, or the Way of St James, is most associated with the 500-mile route from the base of the French Pyrenees westward though Pamplona, Burgos and Leon. More accurately, the Camino is the collective name for the multitude of pilgrimage routes laid across Europe that, like a river’s tributaries, finally converge

My taste of lockdown freedom on the Camino pilgrimage

A few of the hip young things sitting along the Lisbon quayside turned their heads my way as my walking sticks scraped along the pavement. I didn’t slow down, though, because I was self-conscious about how I looked. Hiking 2,000km along an extended Camino pilgrimage from the French-Spanish border through northern Spain then down through Portugal will do that to you. My beard had gone feral, my greying hair was out of control. The gaze of my eyes was increasingly unhinged; one friend cautioned similarities to King Lear. Nevertheless, I tried to hold my head high. Little do you know (I silently said to the quayside beauty pageant), but this