News & Events

Members and Friends Monthly Walk –  Leafy Loop, Durrow – 29th December 2018

On Saturday, December the 29th, we made our way to County Laois and the Leafy Loop Trail in Durrow (Map) for our members’ walk. Michael Walsh, a society member and veteran of the Camino welcomed one and all before asking us all to treat this walk like we are on the Camino – talk amongst one another, and create new friendships. The rain had started to fall as we set out but we were all prepared for the elements.

In the woods, there is a soft bed of fallen leaves of green, brown, red and yellow. We walked through country lanes, across farmland and along river banks, forestry paths and woodland tracks. The walking was perfect, that said, the recently fallen rain made you double check your step. It would be great to walk this in Summer.

We had close to 50 walkers today which is wonderful considering the weather. Special thanks to our two guides Susan and Mary who led the way throughout the day. As the walk progressed, it was great to hear pieces of history and notes of local interest from our guides and that added to the day. The walk itself was about 15kms with the whole event taking us around 3 hours to complete.

If you attended the event and took some photographs during the day, we would love if you could submit them on our Facebook page. 

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Photos: @nambrosium / Words: David Smith

Book Launch of ‘Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela’ 7th December 2018

We gathered last night in the recently renovated Kevin’s Street Public Library to celebrate the launch of Dr. Bernadette Cunningham’s book ‘Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela’. There was a large turn out on this special occasion.

Medieval Irish pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela 

Camino Society Ireland chairman, Turlough O’Donnell congratulated everyone involved in the renovation of the library. It is based in a wonderful part of the city. The library has created a Camino Collection and hopes to build on that. The Camino Voyage was mentioned also, which you are all encouraged to see. It is another success story which can be seen in the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, and other cinemas throughout Ireland.

The book was then launched by Brother Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB, Historian and Benedictine monk of Glenstal Abbey. His most recent works have been published by Four Courts Press – ‘The friars in Ireland, 1224–1540′ and ‘Soldiers of Christ: The Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar in medieval Ireland’. He is also a pilgrim, having made the pilgrimage from Triacastela on the Camino Frances recently with students from Glenstal Abbey.

Br. Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB

Br. O Clabaigh was quick to praise Bernadette’s book but he did so with a caveat. He says that looking at the title ‘Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela’, that the book is aimed at a niche group of people who have done the Camino de Santiago themselves or who may have an interest in it or who may have an interest in Irish history, but what you have in front of you is far more than this. He states that is the most authoritative account of medieval Irish pilgrimage to the shrines of England, Europe, and the Holy Land. He goes on to say that this book is one of the most significant and accessible contributions to Irish medieval social and religious history.  Br. Colmán congratulated Four Courts Press for producing the book to such a high standard but also for publishing the book at a price range and a format that is so readily accessible.


Br. Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB

Anyone who is familiar with Bernadette’s early medieval research knows her ability to forensically piece together events. Whether it is the manner in which she traces the evidence of the cult of St. James in Gaelic sources, or her familiarity with the iconography of St. James in Ireland, in different parts of the country, in different media, and in different stages. Bernadette also distinguishes between Anglo-Irish pilgrims who were better documented in the 12th and 13th centuries while their Gaelic counterparts turn up with more frequency in the 15th century. There is great analysis made into both the Anglo Irish and Gaelic pilgrim.

Likewise, we have documented experiences from women pilgrims. There is the account of Margaret O Carroll who made the journey to Santiago in 1445, which was a Jubilee Year.  She was a woman who knows how to shape her image. Prior to this, in 1433, which was a year of famine in Ireland, she was remembered for providing two magnificent feasts: one on the 26th March at Killeigh, Co. Offaly and another on the 15th August at Rathangan, Co. Kildare. She entertained the great and the learned so that her name would be remembered.

In the absence of pilgrimage, the scallop shell is one of these things that will endure through almost everything. Scallop shells are turning up in archeological excavations right around the country and Bernadette has documented all of these. So we get a snapshot of pilgrimage from Kinsale, Fermanagh, Tuam to more recently the excavations in St. Thomas’ Abbey in Dublin.

Dr. Bernadette Cunningham

Bernadette began by saying that writing a book is similar, in a lot of ways, to walking the Camino – it offers you the opportunity to explore new horizons, to see new things, meet new people but also to rediscover old ways.  Bernadette thanked everyone for coming this evening to share this celebration. Thanks were also given to her sister Mary and her husband. Her sister Mary introduced her to the Camino in France. They have had the opportunity to walk together many times.


There was an opportunity to buy the book following the launch, however, you can buy the book through the following link (

If you are in the Kevin Street area, we encourage you to visit the newly renovated library. It looks brand new and in time there will be many books relating to the Camino de Santiago to refer to.


Camino Voyage – Out in Select Cinemas from 23rd November 2018

An Epic 2,500 km Modern Day Celtic Odyssey
A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist, and a Stonemason embark on the Camino by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic odyssey all the way from Ireland to Northern Spain.

In Select Cinemas in Ireland; November 23rd!
IFI, Dublin
Lighthouse, Dublin
Pálas, Galway
IMC, Dún Laoghaire
Triskel, Cork
Cinema Killarney…
Phoenix Cinema, Dingle

Winner – Audience Award – Dingle International Film Festival
Winner – Audience Award – Luxembourg British & Irish Film Season
Winner – The Documentary Award – Irish Screen America Film Festival, NYC
Winner – Documentary Award – An tOireachtas Media Awards, 2018

Praise for the Film:
“★★★★★ – A heartwarming, spirited documentary that should not be missed” Paddy Kehoe, RTÉ Guide
“★★★★★” RTÉ Entertainment
“★★★★ – Deilghtful”  
The Irish Times
“★★★★”  The Irish Examiner
The Evening Echo 
 The Irish Examiner
“Lyrical, Compelling”
Eye for Film
“Six Of The Best Films To See At The Cinema This Weekend” – The Irish Times
“Reflects the Spiritual Power of The Experience” 
The Times
”  The Independent
★ – Packs One Hell of An Emotional Punch ” – The Herald
“Hauntingly Beautiful” 
 Turlough O’Donnell, Camino Society Ireland
“One of the Most Beautiful Films I’ve Ever Seen” Actor, Paul McGann
“Compelling,  a communal and seminal achievement.” No More Workhorse
“The Kon-Tiki Expedition for our Generation”
 Clare Cahill, Arts University Bournemouth
“Uplifting & Extraordinarily Beautiful” Sunniva O’Flynn, IFI
“Enchanting, Inspiring and Ultimately Very Deeply Moving”  Maurice Galway, Director, Dingle Film Festival
“Possibly the most moving, emotional and beautiful film I’ve seen in the last few years”  Writer, Manchán Magan
Oar-inspiring . . . Poetic and meditative”
“Beautiful in its entirety” 
John Brierly, Author of ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago’
“Unforgettable’ Tim Severin, The Brendan Voyage

Pilgrims to Santiago from medieval Ireland by Dr. Bernadette Cunningham – 22nd November 2018

In its Autumn Heritage lectures, the Lismullin Institute seeks to explore various aspects of our local heritage. All of these took part in Lismullin Conference Centre, near Tara, Co Meath, a fabulous setting rich in history. Dr. Bernadette Cunningham’s book entitled “Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela” can be purchased now at Four Courts Press ( The official book launch will be held on the 6th of December in Kevin Street Library, Dublin.

Medieval Irish pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela 

The current popularity of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is built on medieval foundations. Dr. Cunningham’s lecture revealed stories of men and women who travelled from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages.

From the 12th to the 16th centuries, the promotion of the Santiago pilgrimage as a destination was linked with the idea of penance, repentance, and indulgences. The popularity of the shrine of St, James was first promoted by an Archbishop Diego Gelmires who actively promoted the shrine and got papal sanction to issue indulgences to pilgrims. Santiago was on a par with Rome and Jerusalem.

For a sea-going nation like Ireland, the position of Santiago de Compostela was a major element of its’ attraction for medieval pilgrims. Part of the journey from Ireland always had to be made by sea and the key to understanding how they got there is to understand the trade routes that already existed – the regular merchant ships of the day were used by pilgrims.


Picture by Oihana Trojaola

In the 13th century, the first ships were Anglo-Norman bringing pilgrims from the South and East of Ireland and those people would have crossed to Bristol or Plymouth and looked for a ship before heading to Spain from there. The ships used in the 13th century were those used in trading fish, hides or wine and were not very large. The main departure points were Dublin, Drogheda, New Ross, and Waterford.

The first named pilgrim was Richard de Burgh from Clonmel who went to Santiago in 1320. He probably sailed first from Clonmel over to England. Once across the English channel in France, pilgrims generally used horses or mules for transport until arrival in Santiago. Richard de Burgh is representative of the first pilgrims to be found from Ireland – they were wealthy Anglo-Norman townsmen or bishops with strong English connections.

By the 15th century, we find evidence from other parts of Ireland, from Gaelic lordships in the North and West of Ireland, heading to Santiago de Compostela. Also, by the 15th century, direct transport in bigger ships along the Bay of Biscay became the norm. For those making a direct crossing to Iberia, the port of A Coruña was normally used. In the 15th century, merchant ships travelling on this route could carry between 100 and 200 passengers. It’s not just the Irish that went this way. Pilgrims from as far as Germany used the sea route. It was quicker, cheaper and no more hazardous than the land-based option.

By the 15th century, we learn that it was not unusual for elite women from Gaelic Ireland to undertake lengthy pilgrimages. One of the best-known instances was the journey taken to Santiago by Margaret O Carroll in 1445. She was a prominent woman married to the head of a lordship in the Irish midlands. She went to Santiago in a jubilee year, along with other Gaelic leaders and followers.

A typical trip to A Coruña by sea would be between 5 – 10 days, while the journey from A Coruña to Santiago de Compostela would have taken 2-3 days on horseback. On arrival at A Coruña, the medieval Irish pilgrim would have been met by the Tower of Hercules and most certainly pilgrims would have visited the Church of Santiago.

church of st james a coruna

Church of St James, A Coruna

This church marks the official start of the Camino to Santiago from A Coruña. The church building was initiated in the 12th century with additions in the 13th and 14th. The church houses a very famous 13th-century statue of St. James, which is found on the cover of Dr. Cunningham’s book.

There is no written account from an Irish pilgrim on return from Santiago, however, an English pilgrim, William Wey, published his itineraries in the 1460s which are now kept in Oxford Library.

Bernadette’s book can be purchased through Four Courts Press (

Bernadette Cunningham is deputy librarian of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. She is author of The world of Geoffrey Keating (Dublin, 2000) and The Annals of the Four Masters: Irish history, kingship and society in the early seventeenth century (Dublin, 2010).


Camino Society Ireland members with Dr. Bernadette Cunningham