When we decided in December 2014 to walk on the Camino, some thought us brave.. others, myself included, thought us crazy! Nevertheless, since then, we have completed the last 100km of the Camino de Santiago 3 times, twice from Sarria to Santiago on the Camino Frances in 2015 & 2017 and once on Camino Portugues from Tui to Santiago in 2018. The “we” I refer to is myself – Brid, my husband Martin and “kids”, Niamh, Ciaran and Aoife – who when we first walked, were 13, 10 and 5!
The Camino is undertaken for many reasons. It was something Martin and I had said we would like to do once our kids had grown up. When friends encouraged and assured us that it was possible to ‘do the Camino’ with kids, we decided to go for it. We started planning by considering what was a reasonable / realistic distance for our kids to walk and splitting the ‘stages’ accordingly. It worked out at 9 days, with a maximum of 15 km towards the end of the walk. We decided to walk in August to give ourselves a chance to prepare over the summer holidays. In terms of heat, August was fine in 2015, but it was much more extreme in 2017 / 18. This put more pressure on us to be up and out early and meant, unfortunately, we were less able to linger over comfort breaks. Given the challenge of walking with kids, and the challenge for them of undertaking this walk, we decided to pre-book accommodation and organise bag transfers.
Having walked both on the Frances and Portugues routes, I would suggest the Frances is a better option for families. I loved the Portugues route..walking under albarino vines was amazing but the French route is more geared towards pilgrim traffic with more accommodation and café / snack break options which were very important / essential for us. We used a variety of accommodation types – small private albergues, pensions, hotels and Casa Rurales. All brought their own amazing attributes, and we were rarely disappointed. We also experienced incredible hospitality, warmth and kindness… In particular, I remember two or three places where we were taken in and literally wrapped in kindness. Strangers gave Aoife little gifts, souvenir sellers declined payment, a kind gentleman ‘sold’ Aoife a beautiful silver pendent for €2 (because that was all the money she had) and when I offered to pay the balance he said ‘no thank you’. She reminded him of his daughter who is now 40!
There is a great sense of relief, accomplishment and even enjoyment from completing a day’s walk – comfortably or otherwise – dinner and relaxation is well earned, deserved and appreciated! The sound of Galician pipe music will stay with me always. Turning a corner on the outskirts of a small village on a Sunday afternoon and coming across a traditional festival with pipers and people dressed in traditional Galician clothes, was a truly spirit lifting experience. Discovering the connections between Ireland, Scotland (Martin is Scottish) and Galicia was special.. encountering Galician natives with names such as Aaron and Ciaran was so thought provoking and so ‘weird’ for want of a better word! Aquarius Naranja, Churros, Kas, Empanada Gallega and Tarta de Santiago are beverages and food we still long for.. and we have baked Tarta de Santiago with great success here at home! The Botafumeiro in the Cathedral in Santiago was another highly emotive and memorable experience.
In conclusion – to Helen and Laurence who told us: ‘go for it’ – thank you I am forever grateful. To those harbouring an idea of a family Camino (with kids or grandkids) – plan, prepare and go for it – do it your Way! It isn’t easy but we found that the kids walked with greater ease than the adults! It is achievable, rewarding, special, I would even go so far as to say life-changing and addictive! To my family – many would not have entertained this addiction – you did – 3 times! Thank you.
Buen Camino! – Written by Brid Morgan