If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve heard of the Camino de Santiago. This was a pilgrimage that Catholics took in the Middle Ages from wherever they lived to Santiago, Spain. There, the remains of St. James, the Apostle, was supposed to be buried.
Today, thousands of walkers walk the Way of St. James, mostly from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Even I walked Le Chemin de St. Jacques in France from Le Puy to St. Jean about two years ago.
If there’s a way to Santiago from every place, why not from Ireland?
In about 500 AD or so, St. Brendan, the patron saint of walkers, walked from about Tralee to Dingle, spreading the word of God. Later pilgrims walked to Dingle and boarded a boat to Northern Spain and followed the path to Santiago.
Today, the Kerry Camino is only about 25 miles, from Tralee to Dingle, following the Dingle Way. On the way, there are Stamping stations, where your Compostella (passport) can be stamped.
It turns out that St. Brandan got around. He may have sailed to the Americas. He and a few other monks set off from the Brendan River in 535 AD, using the stepping stone method. He stopped in the Hebrides, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland. It took them 7 years.
He came back and actually documented his journey. I wonder if Christopher Columbus read Brendan’s book.
Now for the rest of the story.
In 1976, Tim Severin set sail to reproduce St. Brendan’s trip, even building the same type of boat. It took him 13 months. Of course, he wrote a book on the experience.
You may feel this has little to do with hiking. But to me, discovering this history is all about walking the land. It wouldn’t make an impression on me, if I just read about it.