Do you know the main stages of the English Way? Let’s discover together the main stops of the English Way and the points of interest of this route that, since the Middle Ages, allowed pilgrims from northern Europe to reach Galicia and undertake the Camino de Santiago. Discover the history and scenic beauty of this alternative route that over the years is growing in number of pilgrims.
The English Way, also called the Way of St. James of the English, is the first historical maritime route to Santiago de Compostela. From the 12th to the 15th centuries, the ports of Ferrol and A Coruña, the current starting points, witnessed the disembarkation of thousands of pilgrims from northern Europe. British, Scottish, Irish and Dutch pilgrims arrived in Galicia to begin the overland pilgrimage by land to Santiago de Compostela. Today it is undoubtedly one of the alternatives to the most popular routes such as the French or the North.
A large part of the charm of the English Way lies in its contrasts, which combine the maritime landscapes of the estuaries of Ferrol, Ares and Betanzos with other rural and remote stretches of deep Galicia. This Jacobean route also passes through towns and cities of great historical importance. In addition to the beautiful cities of A Coruña and Ferrol, you will have the opportunity to visit the town of Pontedeume, linked to the poweful Andrade Family, and Betanzos, one of the most charming towns in Galicia.
This route will allow you to discover a wide variety of landscapes (sea, coast, forest, inland areas, historical cities and monuments) and also enjoy a greater oeace and quiet compared to other itineraries. However, according to the statistics of the Pilgrim’s Office of Santiago in 2019, the English Way was the fifth most chosen route with about 15,780 pilgrims.
Like all the Pilgrims’ Routes to Santiago, the English Way is unique and has incredible places to discover. If you are a nature lover and you don’t want to walk on a busy trail too busy but not too lonely, this route is the perfect choice for you.
The discovery of the tomb of the Apostle St. James around the year 814 was an essential milestone for the development of the Way of St. James. Attracted by the Cathedral that preserved the remains of the Saint, thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe began to walk what soon became the third most important pilgrimage route in the world, together with the pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem: The Way of St. James.
The strategic position of Ferrol and A Coruña in the Middle Ages as ports of entry to Galicia for ships coming from the north favoured the development of the English Way. During the first years of the Jacobean phenomenon, those who wanted to visit the tomb of the Apostle from England or northern Europe had to face a sea crossing that could take up to 5 months.
These early pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean to continental Europe by sea and then followed a route on foot along the roads of France and northern Spain. The journey could be somewhat dangerous, as at that time the roads were often plagued by bandits and thugs of various kinds.
Thusm this route, created thanks to the commercial exchanges between Spain and Great Britain, became a safe route. It favoured the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
One of the testimonies that, it is said, gave impetus to the English Way were the famous Crusades and the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar took advantage of their stop in A Coruña to visit Compostela and ask the Apostle for protection. Its popularity in the Middle Ages was such that the Icelandic monk Nicolas Bergsson made a pilgrimage from Iceland to Rome on foot, a feat that lasted five years, 1154 to 1159, and which led him to Santiago de Compostela.
Crammed between goods, thousands of people from all over Europe arrive at ports of the English Way to later use overland routes and paths laid out for the purpose of trade and pilgrimage to visit the remains of the Apostle. In 1434, more than 3,000 pilgrims disembarked in the port of A Coruña.
In the 16th century, this pilgrimage route suffered a sharp decline as a result of the Lutheran Reformation and the break in relations between King Henry VII and the Catholic Church (1509 – 1547). This led to the almost total disappearance of the English route until 1990s, when it was recovered by the institutions ans the rise of the most important pilgrimage routes.
This route runs through the autonomous community of Galicia, more specifically the province of A Coruña, from north to south. The English Way has two alternatives in Galicia: the route from A Coruña, which is shorter -73 km- than the one from Ferrom -119 km-. Both converge halfway, in the town of Hospital de Bruma, to continue along the same path for the last 40 km to Compostela.
Most pilgrims start the Camino from Ferrol. The km 0 of this route is located in the old medieval port of Ferrol Vello, built in the eleventh century, next to the Tourist Office and Pilgrim’s Assistance.
Thanks to its orographic configuration and the Ferrol stuary, this is one of the safest ports in the world. For this reason, in the 16th century, Philip II decided that this would be the base for the Royal Navy. Philip V later ordered the construction of the Royal Arsenal and Ferdinand VI ordered the creation of a large shipyard that would be dedicated exclusively to the construction of ships for the Navy.
In its time, this military arsenal housed the largest stock of weapons in Europe and became the port with the most important naval structures in the world during the 18th century.
The arsenal, now a naval base of the army, is open to the public and is an Asset of Cultural Interest. In Ferrol, we also find the Museum of Naval Construction, the largest museum in Europe dedicated to this subject.
Neda is a charming place that forms part of the route of the English Way in its variant from Ferrol. A commercial port and shipyard in the Middle Ages, the town of Neda extends its surface from the banks of the Ferrol estuary and the valleys of Belelle, Castro and Xuvia to the Anxos and Marraxón mountains.
Although Neda is mentioned for the first time in documents dating back to the 10th century, this municipality preserved megalithic and castro remains. This is an indication of the importance of this area since ancient times. Its capital, San Nicolás, preserves buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the Church of San Nicolás, for example. Another of its main attractions is the famous Medieval bridge over the river Belelle, whose construction dates back to the 14th century.
The first stage of the English Way from Ferrol ends in Pontedeume. This municipality is a historical, cultural, tourist and natural landmark of its region and surroundings. It is one of the getaways to the Fragas do Eume natural park, where you can visit the emblematic monasteries of Caaveiro and Monfero.
Pontedeume is also one of the most important stopts on the English Way, with its stone bridge and medieval old town, In its historic centre you can admire the Andrade Tower, which with its 18 metres in height, completed the enclousure of the defensive walls of the town. Today, this is the headquarters of the Tourist Office and the Andrade Interpretation Centre.
The second stage will take you to the city of Betanzos, whose historic centre has been declared a historic-artistic site due to its great heritage value. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the province of A Coruña, it was one of the capitals of the Old Kingdom of Galicia. It is also known as the city of the Knights due to the importance of these figures in the Middle Ages.
Among the most interesting places in the city of Betanzos is the Plaza Hermanos García Naveira, where you can find the fountain of Diana the Huntress, a copy of the sculpture Diana of Versailles, exhibited in the Louvre; the gates of the City (remains of the old medieval wall or the church of San Francisco.
On the outskirts of Betanzos, you can visit the Parque del Pasatiempo. The first theme park in the West, which as well as having recreational character, also has an educational purpose, as it was created as an encyclopaedic park at the beginning of the 20th century.
If you are a lover of gastronomy, don’t forget to try the famous Betanzos omelette, characterised by being undercooked.
This port city located in the north of the region of Galicia has a special relationship with the English Way, as it is one of the starting points of this pilgrimage route. A Coruña is also the second most populated city in Galicia and will offer you a charming atmosphere to immerse yourself in Galician history and culture, as well as the opportunity to explore the beauty of the city before setting off on your journey to Santiago de Compostela.
Its most representative symbol is the Tower of Hercules, which dates back to the 1st century AD and is also the oldest lighthouse in the world still in operation.
Another of the city’s attractions is the imposing Plaza de María Pita, located in the heart of A Coruña and surrounded by historic buildings, cafés and restaurants. In the centre of the square is a monument dedicated to María Pita, a local heroine who defended the city against the attack of the English troops led by Francis Drake in the 16th century.
The next two stages will allow you to get to know the interior of Galicia and its rural landscapes. After leaving Betanzos you reach the village of Hospital de Bruna, where the two routes of the English Way join, from A Coruña and from Ferrol. In this village there are only about 40 inhabitants and it has no services other than a small hostel and a vending machine.
Even so, the importance of the passage of pilgrims is evident in this place, due to the existence of an old pilgrims’ hospital, from which Bruma receives its name. This hospital, dates from the year 1175, which stood next to a chapel, also disappeared. Monarchs such as Charles V of Habsburg spent the night in this hospital. The pilgrims’ hostel is located on a plot of land adjacent to the old hospital, and is the last public refuge until reaching Compostela.
The entrance to the municipality of Sigüeiro begins in an unforgettable way: passing over the Tambre suspension bridge. This route has been followed in exactly the same place for almost a millennium. Nowadays, this village is dedicated to agricultural, livestock and forestry activities, although tourism is gaining more and more strength thanks to the English Way.
The most outstanding monument in Sigüeiro is undoubtedly the Medieval Bridge. This bridge dates from the 14th century and was built by order of Fernán Pérez de Andrade. It was also the scene of sword fights between medieval knights.
This building, built by order of Felipe II (after whom it is named), dates from 1557, although the palace that remains today is from the 18th century. The Castle of San Felipe is the most important military construction in Ferrol. Together with the Castle of the Palma and the now disappeared Castle of San Martiño, the three fortifications made the Ferrol estuary an impassable place.
The Ponte de Pedra in Pontedeume was the longest bridge in Europe until the Modern Age. Its strategic position and economic importance made it one of the most important bridges in Spain. This bridge formerly had 68 arches, more than 850 metres long and had two towers, a chapel and a hospital for pilgrims. The current bridge has 15 arches and replaces the one built by Fernán Pérez de Andrade in the 14th century.
This forest, which has formed part of the network of Natural Parks since 1997, is a real hidden treasure. You will be surprised by its beauty and by the unaltered presence of a forest dating back to the Tertiary Era. Considered the most important coastal Atlantic forest in Europe, it is definitely worth a visit.
With its 9,000 hectares along the river Eume, it is one of the best preserved parks in Europe. In addition to more than 200 different types of lichens and 20 types of ferns, the Fragas do Eume offers an incredible biodiversity for its fauna. These forests are home to more than 103 species of birds, 41 types of mammals and 8 species of fish.
We are not only talking about flora and fauna, as this park is also home to historical buildings such as the monasteries of Santa María de Montefero (12th century) and Caaveiro.
This monastery was used as a refuge for the monks and pilgrims until the 18th century and is considered the oldest monastery in Galicia. The origins of this monastery date back to the 10th century, when the first news of the existence of monastic life in the place is known. Although there used to be two churches, today only the small Romanesque church of Santa Isabel remains.
In the Middle Ages, the popularity of this monastery was such that it was visited by Lord Byron and Edward VII of England, who, as Prince of Wales, took advantage of his stay in Ferrol to visit this building.
This ancient tower is one of the most representative symbols of A Corula and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2019. It is believed to have been built by the Romans between the end of the 1st century AD and the 2nd century AD and is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. From its lookout point, you will also get a spectacular panoramic view of the city and the sea.
Other monuments of interest on this route are: the Magdalena neighbourhood in Ferrol, The Monastery of San Martiño de Xubia.
If you are one of those people who like to discover charming places and you also have time to do so while you walk the Camino, here are some interesting places you could visit on the English Way.
Pantín Beach is characterised by its fine white sand. It is usually very windy and has a strong swell that makes it ideal for water sports. If surfing is your passion, this is the perfect place for you, as it is considered one of the best for this activity.
Every year at the end of August the Pantín Classic is held, a surfing competition that is included in the world surfing championship circuit and attracts professionals and amateurs from all over the world every year.
You can visit it if you do the variant that starts in Ferrol, as it is a 30-minute drive from the city centre.
The route of the waterfall of Belelle is perfect plan to disconnect. The route, which follows the course of the Belelle River, has a duration of just 1 hour and a lenght of 3.5km (round trip).
the waterfall is 45 metres high and carries water from the Alto de Fontardión, in the Fragas do Eume. In addition, at the base of the waterfall there are natural pools where you can refresh yourself. You can visit it on the stage between Ferrol and Pontedeume, as it is a 15-minute drive from the city centre.
The English Way is a route of medium difficulty that is characterised by the contrast between the coast and the interior, with some steep climbs and descents.
Note also that the level of difficulty of this route may vary depending on the starting point, the physical condition of the pilgrim and the weather conditions at the time of travel.
The entire English Way from Ferrol has an approximate lenght of 119 km. Although less kilometres can algo be done if you decide to start in A Coruña. The distance covered each day can affect the feeling of difficulty, so it is important to plan stages appropriate to your level of fitness.
The English Way runs along a route that combines local roads and highways with little vehicle traffic, which stretches of dirt or grass. Part of this route runs along the old Camiño Real, traditionally used by pilgrims on their way to Compostela.
This route combines sections of low, medium and high difficulty. The hardest section is the 24 kilometres that separate Betanzos from Hospital de Bruma, as it climbs from 50 metres to almost 500.
Even so, the distance and gradients are less after the controversial modification of the route decided by the Xunta de Galicia in 2017. In the previous stage, from Pontedeume to Betanzos, there are also some slopes, but of a more moderate nature (except for the slope at the exit of Pontedeume).
The English Way can be started from Ferrol or from A Coruña. Bear in mind that if your objective is to obtain the Compostela, you will have to cover a minimum of 100 kilometres on foot or 200 kilometres by bicycle. For this reason, it is not possible to get the diploma if you do the route by ike or if you start the Camino from A Coruña.
So, you can you choose between two starting points to do the English Way of Saint James:
Depending on the availability of the time of each person, it is also possible to do this itinerary in more days and take advantage to make some visit of interest. Or alternatively, walk fewer kilometres in fewer days if you do not have so much time.
Don’t forget that our itineraries are completely flexible. If you have a different idea in mind (you want to add or remorse nights, services, etc.), don’t hesitate to let us know.
The route on the English Way is well signposted in both variants. The most common signposting is the carbs with tiles and arrows painted at the crossroads. Although in urban and rural stretches you will find signs between the geography and the buildings.
Look carefully. Sometimes they may be hidden or obscured by something such as cars or people, causing you to follow the wrong path. If you come to a junction with no signpost and don’t know how to proceed, we recommend going back to the last sign you saw to try to reorient yourself.
The only place where doubts may arise is the route along the streets and avenues of A Coruña, as it is a large city. You should also look out for the pedestrian footbridge over the railway at the Miño exit and the new signpost at the Sigüeiro exit.
You may come across signage in the shape of the iconic scallop shell. If it is not accompanied by a yellow arrow, you should follow the shell along its open side, i.e. the semi-circular part with the largest diameter, as if it were an imaginary arrow.
The best time of the year to do the English Way is in spring, summer and autumn, when the weather conditions are most favourable for walking. In addition, finding accommodation will not be a problem, unline in winter.
The autonomous community of Galicia has an oceanic climate. Temperatures are mild in coastal areas (such as Ferrol and A Coruña) and more extreme inland, both in winter and summer. Some days in January and Febreary temperatures can drop to 0ºC. On the other hand, rainfall is characterised by being light and intermittent in autumn and spring and intense in winter.
Doing this route is a manageable experience for everyone if it properly planned. In addition, there are several things you should bear in mind before embarking on this adventure:
If you need more detailed information, you can access it here. Remember that each pilgrimage is unique and personal, take your time to enjoy this experience.