By Andrew Hudson

Engaging with the history of the Camino was always one of the appeals of the journey to me. The rationale for coming this way is that we are walking in the steps of medieval pilgrims - there are plenty of other places to walk in Spain if you want - so I’ve tried to look out for things they would have seen along the way.

This has felt a bit harder than I expected. Perhaps that’s because when we followed the Camino in the car in 1988, we naturally stopped at places where the medieval heritage was clear, which may have distorted our perspective. And in several places, that does indeed remain. The great cathedrals of Burgos and Leon are obvious examples, along with well known sites such as Santa Domingo de la Calzada and San Juan de Ortega. There are also smaller places which have been closely linked to the pilgrimage since the Middle Ages, where it’s easy to sense that atmosphere: Rabanal is one example, and O Cebreiro, though the considerable growth in modern facilities there means you have to use your imagination a bit more.

In other places, it’s frankly harder. This is not surprising, given that the heyday of the medieval pilgrimage ended over 750 years ago. Buildings fall down, and styles change. Spain used its riches in the 16th and 17th centuries to rebuild and refurbish churches, so sometimes what you think may be a medieval church turns out to be later. And many have added 18th century altarpieces, which, shall we say, are not my thing. In some cases, the job of finding out is harder, because the church is simply not open: maybe there are good security reasons for this, but it seems a pity. But that’s offset by those places where not only is the building open, but a dedicated person is there to welcome you, answer your questions, and also stamp your “credencial” (pilgrim passport). Those places lift the spirit on a tough day.

There are also a few moments where you see a view that perhaps is what the medieval pilgrim would have seen - below is the approach to San Esteban in Zabaldika, near Pamplona (minus the telegraph poles of course!)

As to the pilgrims themselves, I am in awe of their achievement. As Judith put it during a rough stretch in the rain, “imagine doing this in sandals with a heavy woollen cloak”. I thought about them first, actually, before we started, as friends kindly drove us to St Jean Pied de Port and the Pyrenees loomed ahead. Would our predecessors have felt daunted? After a bit, I decided probably not. Contemporary accounts suggest they were more concerned about being robbed, being cheated, being attacked by wild animals, and falling ill, perhaps because of rotten drinking water, than about a few hills. But as we relax in Santiago, with the prospect of a short flight home, we remember that if our predecessors wanted to get home, they had to do the whole thing again, by whatever route, in reverse. Respect.