Lighthouse Way walk in Galicia with On Foot Holidays
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In November 1890 the Serpent, a British
battleship en route from Plymouth to Sierra Leone, foundered in the shallows of
the dreaded ‘Costa da Morte’, off the wild north-western shores of Galicia.
Only 3 of the 175 crew survived, and the priest from a nearby village enlisted
the help of local people to bury 172 bodies in what is known as the ‘English
Cemetery’, a few poignant yards from the sea and within sight of the fatal
Punta do Boi headland.
A little further south-west you’ll see two
lighthouses on the beautiful but menacing, rocky promontory of Cabo Vilan. The
first, steam-powered and built in 1854, is small, set back and its dim light
contributed to the demise of the Serpent. The larger, newer lighthouse, moulded
to the landscape, was Spain’s first electric ‘faro’, but was only completed in
1896, a few years too late for most of the Serpent’s crew.
These are just a couple of the many
interesting features you’ll encounter along the remarkable long distance
walking route, the ‘Camino dos Faros’ - the Lighthouse
Way - ‘the last unspoilt coast of Europe’, and which can be walked with On Foot Holidays for the first
time this year.
In 2012 six local Galegos friends sat with
their dogs in a bar by the beach in Malpica, and decided to link this
traditional fishing port with the lighthouse at ‘the end of the earth’, in Fisterra
(Finisterre), some 200 km south and west along the wild, windswept, fatal Coast
of Death, and the reputed last stop before the New World. On foot. With the
help of others, they gradually cleared the route and since 2014 have begun to
promote it - with a quiet passion - to the outside world.
The full official 200 km Camino dos Faros faithfully hugs
the coastline, running through loads of different landscapes always looking at
the sea towards the West. Lighthouses, beaches, dunes, rivers, cliffs, forests,
estuaries with a great variety of birds, ‘castros’ (hill-forts), dolmens,
fishing villages, viewpoints from where to enjoy how the sea breaks in all ways
On Foot Holidays, with their usual
meticulous attention to detail and desire to offer flexibility to clients,
provide several ways to embrace this mesmerising walking route. Each makes
occasional strategic inland forays to provide good accommodation options, and
to avoid the most extreme parts of the official Camino:
- a 10 night holiday, with 9 days walking almost the entire route
- a 7 night option, with 6 days walking, starting from Laxe and avoiding the challenging and long first few days from Malpica
- a 5
night option, with 4 days walking from Camarinas
We have just returned from walking every
inch of the 9 day route. Well, apart from a couple of unintentionally missed
kilometres on day 8 somewhere between Muxia and Lires, compensated for by a
voluntary extra 2 km on the final day, detouring into Fisterra town for a
life-replenishing ice cream, before the final stretch to the end of the world.
Make no mistake, the Lighthouse Way is a
challenging route. Look away now if you suffer from vertigo - some days narrow
gorse-lined paths - high above the towering Atlantic waves pounding the distant
rocks below - are not for the faint-hearted. But on most days, On Foot offers
taxi drop-offs or pick-ups to shorten the walk, should you want to avoid the
most difficult terrain or just want to spend longer exploring what else is on
offer in this enchanting corner of the Iberian peninsula.
Food and drink
If you like seafood, you’ll never want this
adventure to end. Eat gambas (prawns), merluza (hake), bacalao (cod), mejillones
(mussels), almejas (clams), langostinos (langoustines), pulpo (octopus) and
much more, caught a few metres from where you’re walking. Or try the famous empanada
gallega, a huge pie stuffed with meat or fish, often tuna, peppers and onions.
For breakfast at the beautifully restored
150 year-old traditional Casa Luz in Lires, host Yolanda fuelled us up for our
epic last day’s walk with filloas, typical Galician pancakes, made simply with
eggs, flour, water and a little salt. As delicate as lace-like doilies, stuff them
with ham and cheese, or go sweet with chocolate spread, honey, or homemade
At lunchtime on the day’s walk between Laxe
and Camelle, we stopped at the Café Bar Os Espinos in the small pueblo of
Mordomo. As the locals slammed down dominoes on the table next to us, the owner
brought us - unbidden - small earthenware dishes of chickpea and ham stew, oily,
salty, comforting and very Galician.
Wash all this hearty food down with
Estrella Galicia beer, or local wines: white Ribeiro and Albarino, or a muy
bueno Mencia red. And if you’re really lucky, entertaining host Julio at Casal
de Cereixo will wheel out his collection of interesting grappas after dinner.
Flora, fauna and birds
Whether you’re on the rocky clifftops of
the Costa da Morte, heading inland for a brief rural foray or eating your
packed lunch on a deserted beach, you’ll feel closely connected to nature
throughout this walking adventure.
Early in the route, between Corme and Laxe,
the sand dunes and salt marshes around the Estuario de Anllons - protected by
a long, curling tongue of sandspit - provide the natural habitat for a vast
array of birds, including curlews, oystercatchers and kittiwakes. Later, in the
completely different wave-pummelled terrain by one of the many lighthouses, you
might be lucky and spot a few guillemots. Ever-present seagulls squawk and mew
along the whole route, especially at the mouth of the the Ría de Lires, where
they swoop into the water gushing from the fish factory, hopeful of food. And the
occasional song of skylarks, high above you, is always a welcome harbinger of
dryer, warmer weather.
We would frequently spot the havoc caused
by foraging wild boar, particularly in the dense inland forests. Or perhaps it
was foxes. Or even wolves?
Gorse bushes cling to the side of the
clifftops, like Corsican maquis, their bright yellow flowers one of the most
vivid memories of this springtime walk for me. And venturing away from the
pounding ocean, the powerful scent of giant Eucalyptus trees and dense pine
forests would come as a welcome contrast to salty sea air.
Everyone you meet along the way, whether at
your overnight stays or just by chance on the Camino, will make you warm to
Galicia and its people.
We chatted for a while with a weather-beaten
71 year-old man collecting snails on a remote part of the route, close by
mountainous sand dunes. He was protective of his patch and asked us not to
share his name or photograph with the outside world, but he was so engaging. In
the tiny fishing port of Santa Marina, Josep was happy to pose for a photograph
and share his day’s plans with us.
And when we arrived a little earlier than
expected at our overnight stay in Camelle, a neighbour poked her head out of
the window, checked who we were and phoned the keyholder to come and open up
But really, as the Trasnos - how the proud
founders and local supporters of the collaborative project Camino dos Faros
call themselves - say, the route is all about the sea. Defining this corner of
Galicia - and the whole Iberian peninsula - the full force of the Atlantic is
unleashed on the rocks close by your feet. Shipwrecks litter the coast.
Fishermen risk their lives every day.
Everybody is welcome and there is only one
goal; to make this Camino dos Faros a reality, so that people can walk it with
the maximum respect for nature.
On Foot Holidays
It is hard to overstate the quality of
travel experience that On Foot provide, if you decide to walk this
option you choose is self-guided, but it will feel as though On Foot are
with you every step of the way. On-the-ground support is offered by friendly
and professional Aznar Fernández de Pinedo. Each overnight stay has been
chosen with careful consideration. The famous ‘blue book’ contains much more
colour than I can offer in this brief article, providing information on local
history, culture, the economy, architecture, language and practical advice on
transfer options, what to take, and eating out options.
And for each day, you will have meticulous
step-by-step directions from On Foot, together with maps of the route. Combine
that with the lime green splodges, arrows and 4-toed footprints of the mythical
mascot ‘Traski’ etched on rocks, trees, signposts and buildings and you won’t
stray far from this truly awe-inspiring, energy-sapping, breath-taking Camino.
Andrew's lunch stop on the final day of the Camino dos Faros - Lighthouse Way - walk in Galicia with On Foot Holidays.
Yet another deserted perfect beach on the wild, unspoiled Galician coast walking the Camino dos Faros - Lighthouse Way - with On Foot Holidays.
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