Güemes to Oviedo 222kms(139m)

Farewells were made with fellow pilgrims at the albergue in Güemes, and it was back to the hard reality of the Camino. The walkers had to make some strategic decisions about their destinations because of the distances between albergues. Few wanted to end up spending expensively at a hotel or pensión, so they made their calculations before setting off.

Güemes to Santillana del Mar 30m

I had decided to make today a half day rest, and spend a bit of time in Santander.The great highlight before arriving their was take a boat from Somo and cross the huge Bay of Santander (and cut

With José and Javi

off a 21km detour!). It was a gloriously sunny day, with a cooling breeze, and the crossing provided perfect views of the city. Two other cyclists had joined me on the boat, José and Javi, both from Cartagena in Murcia. To get to their starting point in Irún, they had hired a car for the one way journey, and were planning on flying back from Santiago.

Santillana del Mar.This is probably the most visited town on the north coast


of Spain. Like San Gimigiano in Tuscany, the day tourists and school groups flood in by day, and then all disappear by 6pm. So the best time to visit is early in the morning or in the evening when all is quiet. A well known quip about the name of the town goes like this: it is neither SANTA (holy), LLANA (flat) nor DEL MAR (by the sea).

Pilgrim hostel

I intended to stay at the tiny 16 bed pilgrim hostel in the centre of town, and happened to arrive at the same time as José and Javi, only to find out that preference was going to given to walkers if they arrived before 6pm. We hung out till then, hoping our names were on the three remaining beds…………………. and finally we found they were. For the princely sum of 6 euros, I had a bed in an albergue that comprised two 8-bedded rooms and a bathroom. Nothing more. For a lounge to relax in, we sat outside, and listened to the local choir practising their repertoire in the next building. And yes, not only did we have a snorer in my room, but the Church clock, about 50 metres away, struck on the hour and half-hour throughout the night! Not a lot of sleep was had that night.

The day begins. Everybody was out of  bed by 6am, and their was a bustle of activity, rustle of plastic bags, the squeezing of feet into boots, the grunts and groans of lifting the heavy packs for the first time………..and everybody had disappeared by 7am. I hung around and enjoyed a peaceful snack breakfast before climbing onto the saddle and discover where the sores were from yesterday.

Santillana to Ribadasella 64m

The route today was going to take me out of Cantabria and into Asturias, the land

Indiano House

of cider and coal mining. The town of Colombres taught me about the Indianos: people from Asturias who had emigrated to the Americas, made their fortunes, and returned to form part of the new elite in the community. To emphasise their

Cider country!

new-found status, they built huge houses, employing some of the country’s best architects. Some of these houses are now part of the protected heritage of the region, and they are quite outstanding, if sometimes a little garish.

A confluence of cyclists. As I was cycling out of


Llanés, I spied another cyclist having his snack lunch by the river, so went over to join him. Igor, from the Basque country, had started from Sevilla, and followed the route to Santiago called the Via de la Plata (the Silver Way), and from Santiago he decided to follow the Camino del Norte in reverse to get home again. As we were chatting, to our combined amazement, we were joined by a young lady cyclist, María José, from Huelva. We were amazed for the simple reason she was not only the first female cyclist we had seen, but she was cycling on her own to Santiago. Once all the news had been exchanged, I stepped back a little while Igor and María José exchanged details, and wondered if this conversation would be resumed at a later stage ;0) ………………. And sure enough, I learned from María José that evening that Igor had already been in touch! Watch this space.

A meeting over dinner. A local restaurant in Sadly, Juan was giving up.Ribadasella was advertising a special pilgrim menu for only 8 euros. I sat at table with another lone pilgrim, Juan from Mallorca, and enjoyed his lively company for about an hour. When I enquired where he was aiming for the next day, he said “a casa” (home). He had done two of the Camino routes in the past, but he was finding this route particularly challenging, with long stretches between hostels, and very mountainous in between. At the age of 70 he was visibly beginning to accept the limitations of age, and I sensed a quiet sadness about the way he was adjusting to the reality.

Ribadasella to Oviedo 56m.

There is a diversion in the route that can take the pilgrim to Oviedo, and it was

Cathedral dome, Oviedo

my intention to visit this pivotal town in the development of pilgrimage, and the role it played at the beginning of the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims. However, the diversion is not a simple one. Amongst several climbs, there is a huge one up to 400 metres (1300ft) which seems to go on forever. But there was an architectural jewel on this route that I particularly wanted to visit.

Pre-romanesque San Salvador

San Salvador at Valdediós. Nestling in a valley at the foot of a steep hill, ensconced amongst the buildings of a Cistercian Monastery, is the stunning Pre-Romanesque Church of San Salvador, built around the time that the Moors were being expelled or Christianised. The design of the building itself betrays Moorish influence, and an artist’s impression of how the interior would have been

Artist's impression of interior

decorated leaves no doubt about the Arab influence. For 1 euro 50, three of us had a guide to show us some of the hidden details and explain the background to its construction. And when I detected that there was a pilgrim hostel there, I regretted not having scheduled it in to my route planning. The whole valley was far removed from the hectic routines of everyday life. There was something almost ethereal about it.

From Oviedo I will take a route a little off “the chart” to get me back to the north coast, where I hope to start picking up traces of a Celtic past in this area. My research has revealed that Celts from Britain came and settled in these parts in the 5th century, and I would like to pick up some of the clues as I travel through the know areas.

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on May 19, 2011, in Santiago de Compostela 2000kms: a Celtic route and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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