The Camino Inglés (‘English Way’) is an increasingly popular short route of the Camino de Santiago that winds its way south from the north coast of Galicia — where boats would drop English pilgrims in medieval times — to the tomb of the apostle in Santiago de Compostela.
A 113km journey from Ferrol that is usually completed in five or six days, the Inglés is an excellent alternative to the more crowded last 100km of the Camino Francés or Camino Portugués.
And a pilgrimage on the Inglés might just get you hooked, like the Italian pilgrim and self-proclaimed ‘King of the Camino’ we met who was walking the route for the 12th time.
So, what makes it a charming little camino? Our six Camino Inglés highlights offer an explanation.
Celebration of Galicia
All Camino de Santiago routes are, in a sense, defined by the region or regions they traverse. To take the most obvious example, the Camino Francés is marked by its journey across northern Spain, taking pilgrims over the Pyrenees, into the Basque country of Navarre, through the vineyards of La Rioja, alongside the endless fields of the Meseta, past the stone villages of El Bierzo and finally through the forests of Galicia.
As a short camino, the Inglés cannot match the Spanish kaleidoscope of the Francés or other longer routes, but instead offers a celebration of a single region: Galicia. In just a few days of walking, all of the cultural touchstones of Galicia can be appreciated, including hórreos (traditional raised granaries), galerías (winter garden window frames marked by white borders), cruceiros (sculpted stone crosses) and local dishes such as polbo á feira (Galician-style octopus).
In addition to its cultural elements, Galicia’s natural features shine on the Camino Inglés, starting with its incredible greenery and, in springtime, the explosion of colourful wildflowers on the entire route. Beyond Galicia’s trademark forests, the Camino Inglés also takes pilgrims along the coast at times, from the Ria de Ferrol estuary to start the pilgrimage to the beaches at Magdalena and Grande de Miño.
In short, the Inglés is an excellent option for pilgrims without much time who are looking to immerse themselves in Galicia.
Of the two branches of the Camino Inglés, the one beginning in A Coruña is less popular because it doesn’t meet the 100km requirement for a compostela, unless it’s combined with another recognised walk in England or even the United States. Starting in Ferrol solves this problem, but Ferrol itself is a fairly nondescript place to begin a camino, and pilgrims are advised to make the effort to visit A Coruña beforehand to experience a more dynamic northern Galician city.
Among the highlights of A Coruña are the region’s most famous and photogenic galerías along Avenida Marina and the windswept Torre de Hércules lighthouse, one of the symbols of Galicia.
Beyond these major attractions, the church of Santiago offers a symbolic starting point for the camino — and a more appropriate one than the tourism office in Ferrol. At the wooden statue of Santiago inside the church, pilgrims can summon the strength and spirit they will need for the journey ahead.
In our view, A Coruña sits comfortably in the middle range of the seven cities of Galicia in terms of tourism appeal: below Santiago and Lugo, on par with Pontevedra and Ourense and above Vigo and Ferrol.
An increase in street art has become a feature of many caminos in recent years, and the Inglés is particularly rich in this regard. Designs range from an epic confrontation featuring Neptune and Hercules in A Coruña to portraits of prominent local citizens in Miño.
But it’s the camino-themed street art on the Inglés that is the most memorable, not least because it serves to animate and encourage pilgrims on their arduous path. This begins precisely at kilometre zero, as a large pilgrim mural adorns the exterior wall of the tourism office in Ferrol.
Further along the Inglés, Santiago the pilgrim is a common subject for street art, but the most striking piece, created by Victor Romero Toscano in a tunnel in Narón, shows an octopus wrapped around a way-marking mojón and a pilgrim staff with a shell and traditional water-carrying gourd tied to it.
Finally, while not strictly street art, an unmissable attraction — and well-deserved rest stop — in Presede is the Mesón-Museu Xente no Camiño, a café decorated with distinct, starry paintings, many of which are related to Galician culture or the camino.
One of the pleasures of the camino is learning about local history in places that you might not ordinarily visit. The Inglés is no exception, especially regarding one figure in particular: Fernán Pérez de Andrade, known charmingly as O Boo, derived from a Galego epithet meaning ‘the good’.
Boo was a 14th-century Galician knight who, it is said, built seven churches, seven monasteries, seven hospitals and seven bridges. While these figures may be exaggerated, Boo’s fingerprints are all over the middle stages of the Camino Inglés, where seemingly every second bridge or church you pass is attributed to him.
He is also the subject of an unusual memorial cruceiro at Ponte do Porco that includes a sculpture of a wild boar, the symbol of his house. Finally, Boo’s tomb is the star attraction at the church of San Francisco in Betanzos and, naturally, this has been turned into a dazzlingly colourful piece of art at the aforementioned Mesón-Museu Xente no Camiño in Presede.
With two of the seven cities of Galicia in close proximity to each other on the north coast of Galicia, and Santiago not far further south, there isn’t much room left for historic towns in between. Fortunately, there is one major exception to this rule: Betanzos.
For the energetic pilgrim, the hilly streets of Betanzos are littered with churches and monuments that make for a wonderful afternoon’s exploring. Pilgrims access the town by crossing the Mandeo river over the old bridge, passing through one of Betanzos’ three remaining medieval gates to enter a different world of narrow alleys, old houses, tiled rooftops and Gothic churches.
The adjacent churches of San Francisco and Santa Maria do Azougue are among the historical highlights (with Boo Plaza between them, of course), while the city’s main square, Praza da Constitución, is a great place for people watching, an afternoon drink or a taste of Betanzos’ distinctive ‘runny’ tortillas.
Spirit of the Camino
The Camino Inglés is currently in that hard-to-attain sweet spot where it has the ‘right’ number of pilgrims and sufficient facilities (the bed race in Bruma aside) and hasn’t yet jumped the shark into the over-commercialism that plagues the last 100km of the Camino Francés.
Within this ‘Goldilocks’ dynamic, the spirit of the camino stands out on the Inglés, from tiny donativo stalls offering shells or other trinkets for a few coins to the locals who leave crates of delicious ripe plums on top of way-marking mojones for pilgrims.
This spirit is embodied above all at the much-appreciated Camino Angels refreshment stand following the climb from the Ponte do Porco. Slightly reminiscent of David’s La Casa de los Dioses near Astorga on the Camino Francés, the Angels offer donativo drinks and engaging camino conversation in a forest setting surrounded by camino-themed street art.
And if that isn’t the spirit of the camino, we don’t know what is.
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