Well, this isn’t what we’re used to! We leave the cabin under a misty sky and quite a strong wind.
This is the sort of weather when I would have thought it doesn’t make much sense to walk along the coast because the sky is grey – meaning the sea is also grey – and there isn’t so much to lift the spirits, except of course that you aren’t walking on the road which is always good.
But I am wrong and it is invigorating to march along the headland.
I found the track for this coastal variant on Wikiloc. It was posted by someone like me who likes to record their walk. There is no way of knowing what they encountered en route, or what their comfort zones are, or whether they are a young whipper-snapper who is up for any adventure. The route I downloaded has been very easy to follow but has missed a few loops that follow closely to the headland. I thought I would tackle a few of these missing loops today – maps.me shows lots of footpaths. They did take me out of my comfort zone rather, with some precipitous descents to small bays and challenging narrow overgrown tracks back up to the cliff top. But here I am, in one piece, telling the tale and feeling glad I chose the path less travelled.
The trek turns into a wild and windy walk and I unexpectedly find myself in the middle of a vast expanse of moorland. But after consulting the map I can negotiate my way back on track
At 9 km, more or less, I head away from the coast on a wide gravel and sandy track which soon leads to a paved cycle path lined with yellow and white cistus, and all kinds of other wildflowers.
Soon after I turn off onto a track through pine forest. The wind doesn’t penetrate here and so it’s suddenly very quiet apart from the birds – I can hear woodpeckers and blackbirds and possibly a song thrush
At around 11 km I am out of the forest, finished with this particular coastal adventure, and on to a main road leading to Boo de Piélagos.
Boo is approximately 13.5 km into today’s stage. When I arrive at the station I have missed the train by a few minutes, which means an hour’s wait on the chilly platform. The sun is still refusing to put in an appearance despite the forecast that it should be shining down on us by now.
It is necessary to catch a train at Boo de Piélagos in order to cross the river Mogro. Last time I walked, I crossed the railway bridge by foot but this is actually illegal and I am toeing the line this time. In fact under the influence of my camigos we are planning to stay onboard for a few stops to shorten the distance to the stage end. Sorry to disappoint any camino purists but I’m not feeling very pure on this camino. For a start I didn’t start at the beginning, and I am planning not to end at the end. So what I do in the middle is of little consequence! Maybe this is just a walking holiday and not a camino as I have always walked previously. And I don’t suppose it matters to anyone.
With regard to walking over the railway bridge, whilst waiting at the station there were at least four high speed trains that whizzed right through at great speed. I most definitely wouldn’t want to meet one of these if I was walking. I don’t recall there being any of these fast trains to take into account when crossing the bridge in 2016, but they would make walking over particularly dangerous.
So we regained the camino at Barreda having skipped around 13 km on the train (cost €2.45).
The remainder of the stage was entirely on road. Firstly on a horribly busy, fumey, industrial area, but soon enough onto quiet country roads with adequate walking shoulder. I found it particularly uncomfortable to walk on the busy road after such a remote and peaceful experience earlier in the day. There was another 7-8 km to walk after the train and I plugged into my camino playlist and powered on.
Our stage end of Santillana del Mar (which is not on the coast) is a most charming medieval town – postcard pretty, picture perfect. Last time I stayed in the Albergue at the beginning of town, but this year have opted for the Albergue de Peregrinos El Convente. It has 60 places in rooms with one bunk (€13, or €16 high season) with excellent bathroom facilities and they serve dinner and breakfast for a charge. The problem with a beautiful town like this (for a grumpy old woman like me) is that it is full of tourists – mainly old codgers or school children both of which take up all the space and make a lot of noise. Grumpy old lady I might be but I don’t class myself as an old codger (yet!). Also there is a huge array of tourist shops but no useful supermarket for supplies.
After wandering into the Plaza Mayor for a glass of wine, I returned to the albergue to sit in the huge sunny garden.
I saw my first stork today – always cause for great joy.
Gorgeous flowers and beautiful cattle. Love it Maggie and of course, you are a true pilgrim. I don’t know anyone who deserves the title more than you. Much love xx
What a beautiful and exciting day! Thank you! You really are trepdatious!
I am doing the Camino Del Norte starting from Bilbao can you recommend an Albergue, seems many are closed thanks.
Hi Niel. I haven’t stayed in the albergue in Bilbao – I think it’s a bit distant from the centre. I have stayed in the Ganbara hostel which was good but you will find lots of options on line.
I love to read your blog. Your photos are beautiful and your tenacity is admirable. I am in awe of you my friend. Well done you. Stay well and safe.
In my travels I to see old codgers. They look like me but much older! 😂
I’m mostly a purist but that train is a must there. We only took it one stop though because we couldn’t figure out how to pay. Santo Domingo needs to come back and build a 100m bridge over that river. Since we cheated with the train, we also “cheated” in Santillana del Mar and stayed in the old palace. For a laugh, we went into the hotel and asked if they had pilgrim rates. They did! 54€ – so Melanie refused to leave. It’s not often we sleep in a palace.
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Hi Maggie. We are so enjoying your Camino trek. You have a wonderful way with words as well as some beautiful photos. This is one of the Camino routes we would love to try. My wife and I walked the Camino Frances in the spring of 2018 (and wrote a book about it) and part of the Portuguese Coastal last summer. Two totally different experiences yet each with its own allure. Thanks for taking us along with you on this majestic route. We look forward to your daily reports. Buen Camino! Ken & Aurora Strange (Thousand Oaks, California)
You are clearly a holy person, Maggie. I have been walking the caminos for ages and I have never seen a cow falling to her knees at the sight of the approaching pilgrim! 🐄😊