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Celtic Camino Festival  


Bringing the Camino to Ireland.


April 13th - 15th         2018.


Westport, Mayo. Ireland. 


A weekend of Camino talks, a Pilgrims Walk, a special movie, music and more!


John Brierley is a pilgrim pioneer who has made pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela countless times. He is the author of the most popular Camino guidebooks, which are both practical and mystical. 


John Rafferty who writes under the name Johnnie Walker is one of the most prominent names associated with the Camino to Santiago. Ever since moving to Santiago de Compostela, Johnnie has taken an active role in re-shaping the English-speaking pilgrim's experience in the city.



Dr Bernadette Cunningham is an historian specialising in medieval and early modern Ireland. She is Deputy Librarian at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.  She has walked the Camino from Espalion in France, and  from Porto in Portugal. Her  book on Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela is due for publication in Winter 2018


Celtic Camino Pilgrimage

Walk 25km of the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail and receive a Celtic Camino Compostela!

Visiting the beautiful Ballintubber Abbey(18km) on route for a pilgrims mass on this Celtic Camino!


The Camino Voyage

A full length feature film. A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time's dangerous, 2,500km modern day Celtic Odyssey.

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Camino Society Ireland Information

February 17, 2018

Day February 17th, 12pm - 3pm St James’s Parish Hall


The Society's first Information Day of 2018 was held on Saturday, the 17th of February at St. James's Parish Hall. A large attendance turned out as expected eager to learn about the Camino. Some had walked before and were interested in learning about other routes, while others were planning on taking their very first steps towards Santiago de Compostela.


After a welcome from our chairperson, Turlough O'Donnell, a short presentation was provided my Mike Timms. Mike gave some background information into the history of the Camino; some details of the many routes, how to plan your Camino and explained the significance of the Pilgrim Passport and Compostela. Information was also provided on what you can do in Santiago after your Camino. Mike then listed some of the more frequent questions, for example, "when should one go?" and "how much will it cost?". 


The Celtic Camino Festival was mentioned also, a special occasion. Due to be held from April 13th - 15th in Westport, Co. Mayo, the Festival will feature "The Camino Voyage", detailing the pilgrimage by sea made by crew of four. The Festival will also hold talks, discussions, a photo exhibition, a gala dinner and a Celtic Camino Walk along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Way. You can book one or more events here (


Following the presentation, which was well received, a number of tables were manned by volunteers - one table for each route in Spain, including the Celtic Camino. There were also a table where membership, pilgrim passports and badges could be bought. It was a very successful day for all. There will be further Information Days throughout the country in the coming months. Details will be noted on this website.

The Camino in Britanny

February 03, 2018

Presented by Tony Grouard – ‘Association Bretonne des Amis de St Jacques de Compostelle’


On Saturday, the Camino Society welcomed Tony Grouard from Bretagne, north-west France. The Society were interested in learning more about the Ways in Bretagne and it was a chance to strengthen ties between both Societies. Tony was more than happy to talk about his passion.


Association Bretonne des Amis de St Jacques de Compostelle is the 2nd largest pilgrims’ association in France with over 1500 members and 1500 kilometres of signalled pathway. Tony oversees one of five delegations in the Breton Association – the county of Loire Atlantique.




There are four departure points in Brittany:


  • Pointe St-Mattieu [DH1] from the end of the earth (or Finisterre in French)

  • Locquirec and Moguériec

  • Beauport Abbey at Paimpol, and

  • Mont St-Michel – 2 routes start at Mont St-Michel: Voie des Capitales and Voie des Plantagenéts.


All roads lead to Clisson, on the Breton border. It is possible to walk from Clisson to Mont St. Michel. Pilgrims should follow special while and blue markers instead of shells.






There are 6 printed guides, currently in French, however the first to be translated will be the guides on Pointe St. Mathieu and Mont St. Michel.




There is limited dedicated pilgrim accommodation, and the traveller must rely on commercial accommodation.  Rural gîtes, designed for hikers and vacationers, offer the best value, and camping sites often have cabins or tents available.  B&Bs vary in price and value but can be delightful and reasonable.


It is often possible to be received by families in their home. They provide dinner, bed and breakfast, advice for the next step and sometimes the use of their washing machine. Details on accommodation is available in each guide and on the Association website, which can be downloaded. It is necessary to have a credencial while walking a chemin in Brittany. For those in Ireland, Tony has advised us that our own pilgrim passport can be used if you wish to walk the chemin.


So how can you get there?


Irish pilgrims can get to Brittany by travelling by ferry from Cork to Roscoff. From Roscoff, you have a choice of 4 departure points. As you can see, Mogueriec and Locquirec are really close to Roscoff and are ideal departure points.






The terrain is flat, and it doesn’t offer too many problems. Much of the routes pass through farmland and small towns, however, there are one or two large cities that you venture through. Tony pointed out that there is a lot of tree cover, which is very typical for a Celtic nation. While there are no heights with spectacular vistas, there are many agreeable views and canal-side stretches.  Along with the GR paths (French ways), much is on country roads, but there are also days of walking along canal tow-paths and graded bicycle trails maintained by local authorities.


Mike Timms


We then heard from Camino Society volunteer Mike Timms who talked about his experiences on the Breton Camino. Mike had a very positive experience while walking this route. He stayed with families and in monasteries and he noted the generosity of the locals who went out of their way. Mike also made the point that some families and monasteries like to create their own sello or write a blessing on your credencial. We thank both Mike and Tony for their talk on Saturday.


If you would like further information on a Breton Camino, you can find full information on the Association Bretonne des Amis de St Jacques de Compostelle’s website -

A full list of accommodation -


If you have any question regarding the Breton Camino, please do not hesitate to email Tony Grouard at and finally, we would love to hear from you if you are in any way interested in walking this great walk.


St. James, the Camino & the Dublin Connection

February 03, 2018

Presented by Cathy Scuffil - Dublin City Council Historian

Recently the Camino Society was delighted to have Cathy Scuffil talk on Dublin's connection with the Camino de Santiago. Cathy is Historian in Residence in Dublin City Council.

To learn about this connection, we were told that we need to focus on one part of Dublin – from St. James's Street to Trinity College. Not only is this part of Dublin popular for tourists, but if you look closely enough, you will see plenty of evidence of the Camino within this short distance. We were told that this route was taken by pilgrims as they assembled at St. James’s Gate, walked through the city, before embarking on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Lazar’s Hill – St James’s Hospital.

800 years ago, Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin, founded the Hospital of Saint James, a hostel for pilgrims and the poor of Dublin, on present day Townsend Street, then known as Lazar’s Hill or Lazy Hill. It stood roughly where Hawkins House stands today, right beside the All Hallows Monastery, which later became Trinity College.

In medieval times, pilgrim ships destined for Santiago apparently docked alongside this Hospital, then sailed directly to the coast of Galicia, at Ferrol or A Coruña, from where the pilgrims made their way to Santiago overland. By the mid-13th century, some of these ships were carrying people with leprosy who were desperate for a miraculous cure.

A rather more downtrodden colony is said to have existed in what is today, Misery Hill. Sufferers lived in these monastic-type establishments not simply for the good of their health, but also as a form of perpetual quarantine. The only acceptable way to check out of the hospice was to perish. Another word for these quarantine stations was ‘Lazaretto’ (linked to Saint Lazarus) and it is from this that Townsend Street took its former name of Lazar Hill, sometimes shortened to ‘Lazy Hill’.

Above is a map of the city of Dublin by John Speed, published in 1610. You will see St. James Street in the lower left area of the map while further to the right (listed 10. The Hospital) is St James’s Hospital on what is Townsend Street today. This is where pilgrims would rest before making their way to Spain by ship.

The scallop shell and water

The two things you associate with St James are the scallop shell and water, so even in the current tradition, those two things are replicated in ways that seem to commemorate the pilgrim.

For example, have you seen the street fountain on Lord Edward Street? It was installed in the 19th century and if you look closely, you will see the scallop shell motif at the top. Another example of something similar - the two holy water founts at the front of St Audoen’s Church on High Street. Both founts are large shell-like features and were brought back from South America in the 19th century.

Other examples include

- A baptismal font in St Audoen’s Church of Ireland church which contains the scallop shell on each side of its font.

- The Tailor's Hall, Merchant Quay - Its fireplace contains no ornamentation except for a single shell.

- Hawkins House, Poolbeg Street - The Department for Health is located on the exact spot where the original St. James's Hospital was located.

- The Fountain at James's Street - It was a custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery at St James's Church where Pearse Lyons Distillery is now. There are also two scallop shells on the Fountain, but we are not sure if the water is for drinking!

- St. James's Gate - Perhaps, for many people, visiting St. James's Gate is like a pilgrimage. With over 1.7 million people visiting in 2017, it is a great attraction and adds to the area.

- Pearse Lyons Distillery - The newest visitors' attraction in the area which was the original Church of St. James.

- St. James's Hospital - The Hospital's logo contains a scallop shell.

These are all areas along our route that have an image of the scallop shell included.

Discovery at Frawleys on Thomas Street

Frawleys is currently being redeveloped into student accommodation, and if you walk by it, you will see nothing more than a building site. The builder was given permission to dig down.  However, the city archaeologist had a feeling that there might be something there that she might like to know about. On their first dig, they found a skeleton with a scallop shell. All work has stopped and there is currently a 9-month archaeological dig taking place on the Thomas Street site. Since then, over 120 skeletons and 2 scallop shells have been found on the site. This further strengthens the connection between Dublin and the Camino. It is believed that the bodies have been there since the 12th century and you will all agree that this is exciting news and we wait for further news from this dig. All these burials are connected with the Abbey of St. Thomas and the Abbey would have had a guesthouse that pilgrims could have used. It would have been on the pilgrimage route.  We know that the Abbey of St. Thomas was behind Frawleys and the graveyard was under Frawleys. Two of the 120 burials were pilgrim burials in that they were buried with scallop shells. These are significant finds and absolute confirmation that we are on a pilgrimage route.

Cathy has requested that if anyone sees an image of a scallop shell, whether it be on the end of a church pew, on an altar, in the Dublin area, particularly in the Liberties area, could you please contact her. You can contact Cathy on Twitter @DubHistorians or by email

Tour of Pearse Lyons Distillery for Volunteers of Camino Society

January 27, 2018

On Saturday, the Camino Society brought its volunteers to the nearby Pearse Lyons Distillery on St. James's Street. The site has a long and rich history dating back to 1190 - over 800 years.  More recently, St. James's Church, formerly Church of Ireland, was built in 1859 and was closed in 1963. The remains of the church and graveyard were purchased by Pearse and Deirdre Lyons in 2013 and, following renovation of the roof and spire, the distillery and visitors centre were recently opened to the public.  

We were welcomed by Sheila who was happy to have the Society there, especially as the Church and Graveyard hold a long association with the Camino de Santiago. After a short film in which Pearse Lyons explains how he came to set up his distillery in the heart of the Liberties, we are led to the graveyard behind the renovated St. James's Church. The first account of a body being buried in St. James's is in September 1495 and it is estimated over 100,000 people were buried here between the 12th and 20th centuries.  The headstones also shed light on the type of trades The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’s Church alongside many members of the Lyons family.  Across the road from the church, in the middle of the road, is the "Fountain", an obelisk with 4 sundials with a drinking fountain. It was an old custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery. We were also told that there is evidence of the establishment of a hospice for pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela. We understand that this was located at the far end of the graveyard beside the Guinness Brewery. 

Inside the former St. James's Church and now modern distillery, we are greeted with four large stained glass windows. They let bright light shine throughout the building. On the west side, the window honours the Camino de Santiago. We see a courageous pilgrim on his way to Santiago; a harp; some wheat; and, finally, the scallop shell. A beautiful sight. To the north, the stained glass, housed in a frame in front of the original window, depicts Robert Dunne, Pearse’s uncle, who was one of the last coopers who worked in Dublin. The window to the east tells the story of distillation, while the south window explains the brewing process. 

The site is now home to our two small-batch copper pot stills following their pilgrimage to Ireland from Kentucky. It is with these stills that the distillery crafts its whiskeys. The two copper pot stills have been christened Mighty Molly and Little Lizzie. 

Following the tour, we were treated to a selection of Pearse Lyons whiskeys. All in all, it was an eye-opening occasion which shone more light on the history of the Liberties and the Dublin Camino.

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