Miraz to Santiago de Compostela 93kms (58m)


The British Confraternity of St James recently took ownership of a parish house in this littlevillage and, with the help of generous donations from members, they have extended, furnished and equipped this new albergue to a very high standard. It stands stretegically to provide the walking pilgrims with another choice of albergue, on a stretch where there is little in the way of basic accommodation.

Bob and Barbara

The reception at Miraz was warm and friendly, from volunteer hospitaleros who come out at their own expense to do a few weeks service on behalf of the pilgrims. On duty were Bob and Barbara, with Ted and Avril there to help with a lot of practical issues, including the assembly of furniture and repairs. Although we were welcomed in to stay, the albergue doesn’t officially open until June 7th, when the Bishop will come to give the house a formal blessing and inaugurate its future role as a pilgrim hostel.

Reaching the goal

The end of a long, arduous journey brings a mixture of conflicting emotions. Any pilgrim will understand this. There is adeep sense of relief that the journey is over, that you have attained your goal, but there is also a “what next….?” feeling that dogs your heels. I have only spent 18 days getting here, but many


walkers take several weeks, if not months to arrive. Although cycling/walking for several hours every day is exhausting, there is something blissfully simple about the process. You have only three basic needs: travelling, eating and sleeping. Life is shredded down to simple fundamentals for a few weeks, and when the journey is over, there is the almost immediate prospect that all those other things that keep us busy from morning till night will reappear in our lives, and we have to acknowledge our responsibilities (family, work, domestic duties etc….).

For me the journey is not quite over. After a day in Santiago, I plan to head out to Finisterra, believed to be the most westerly point of the peninsula and, in pre-Columbian days, it was the end of the world. In medieval times, those pilgrims who could make it (at least another 6-10 days

Others on the road

return) would go out to Finisterra, pick up a new scallop shell, burn the clothes they had travelled in, and bathe in the fresh waters of the Atlantic. Symbolic acts to herald the start of a new life as they headed back for home.

This was also the route taken by the Celts as they sought the land of the setting sun. So in the last stages of my journey, I will be picking up some of the pre-Christian pilgrim traditions and seeking the land of perfection that may lie beyond the horizon.

The botafumeiro

Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrimage is a major industry here. Groups travel from all over the world to visit the Cathedral and the shrine of St James. Peppered amongst all these groups you will spy the tired dusty walkers and sweating cyclists who will arrive like planes into Heathrow, except they are limping or struggling to pedal up the last steep hills. To cycle into the Plaza do


Obradoiro and stand in front of the great Cathedral is breathtaking. But to my surprise, the square was largely given over to a major protest by young people, protesting about the lack of job opportunities in the current economic crisis. Just like Parliament Square in London, the Plaza is a sea of tents, posters and food kitchens. I believe that in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, they have the protest so organised that they have set up nurseries for children, clinics and other essential services to keep the protest going in the long term.

2000kms on a recumbent from Germany!

The big spectacular event in the Cathedral is the pilgrim mass at mid-day, which is packed daily with thousands of people from around the world. The real pilgrims will be carrying backpacks or wearing lycra and will struggle their way through the crowds to line up to “hug” the statue of St James high up behind the main altar, and wait for the amazing feat of the swinging of the huge censor, the botafumeiro, which wafts incense throughout the Cathedral. This is an inheritance from medieval days when the incense was needed to mask the intense smell of unwashed pilgrims, and to kill off the many parasites they would bring with them. I stood right underneath this huge swinging censor (that weighs 95 kilos and needs six men to operate it) as it whizzed only a few feet above me, and inhaled the full strength of the incense as it billowed out from all sides.

Monumental Santiago is a place to spend a few days in. When you collect your pilgrim “Compostela” from the

Hostal de los Reyes Católicos

Cathedral Office (a certificate of completion written in Latin), you can use it to some benefit in museums and claiming your free meals at the 5* Hostal de los Reyes Católicos on Cathedral Square. Dirty pilgrims, however, don’t eat with the five star diners upstairs, but downstairs in the servants’ quarters, and they can only cater for 10 pilgrims per meal. So you have to plan you stategies.

To mark the end of journey, before having the obligatory photo taken in front of the Cathedral, I rummaged about in the depths of my saddlebag to find the small bottle of Iona Whiskey given to me by John Rawlinson (who had led the blessing at St Andrew’s in Kimbolton), to mark the meeting of two great places of pilgrimage. It was appropriate that it was from Iona, a place where Celtic christianity was diffused throughout our land, because I had been following a Celtic route through France and Spain to get to Santiago. As I raised the bottle and took a wee dram, I not only toasted St James, but also the Celts that had preceded him who had laid the foundation of this great journey through Europe.


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 24, 2011, in Santiago de Compostela 2000kms: a Celtic route and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Edward Valletta

    Fantastic achievement Frank – Well done! I take my chapeau off to you on an amazing journey. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and looked forward to them after a day of the “same old” back in Kimbolton. Brilliant!!


  2. Andy from St Ives

    A great achievement! And many thinks for sharing your thoughts and observations with us all. You have inspired me. I am more than ever determined to cycle to Compostela one day. Not this year, but maybe next year.


  3. Andrew Lang

    Congratulations, Frank.


  4. Well done! Enjoy the road to Finisterra – the albergue at Olveiroa is especially lovely! I am remembering my first sight of Finisterra and ‘the end of the world’ and it’s made me cry!! Buen Camino, jo


  5. Well done, Frank

    As ever, it’s been a real treat reading your blog.

    Here’s a challenge for you…for your next pilgrimage, I think you should put the bike away and walk. 🙂


  6. Thank you Jo!! If you read the latest post, you’ll see my thoughts on these last few days. Absolutely extraordinary. And “buen camino” to you!


  7. Thanks Keith. Now that would be a big challenge for me. I’m only used to seeing the world at 15-20mph!


  8. Thanks Edward! One day when you have the time and flexibility, it’s a route I would highly recommend. Frustration and elation in equal quantities, but a wondrous ‘bottom line’ at the end.


  9. Thanks Andy. I would recommend it highly. As an experienced cyclist, you already know what it’s like to spend hours in the saddle, then get up the next day and do it again, and again…………….
    But a fantastic experience, and a very social one too!


  10. Thanks Andrew. I have picked up a cockleshell from the beach at Finisterra just for you and the family. A small thing, but packed with significance.


  11. Hello again, Frank.

    I’m now back in Edinburgh, leaving Miraz and the care of the pilgrims to others, at least until the end of the year. By now, the stove will no doubt be connected and the pine tables and the benches that were being made for us will have been delivered, and the builders’ rubbish littering the back garden may even have been removed. Future visitors will, I think, enjoy five shell accommodation.

    Cheers, Bob.


  12. Good to hear from you Bob. And it was a pleasure meeting both you and Barbara at Miraz, and thank you once again for your generous hospitality. Miraz will be an exceptional albergue, without a doubt, one of the best along the Camino del Norte.
    No doubt we will meet again somewhere along the “Camino of life”.


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