Wait. Starting the Camino where?
Every pilgrim “starts” their journey somewhere. Up until my trip to Ireland, my Camino journey had been more abstract than literal. However, once I got to Dublin, I took the first steps that made it – finally – feel real.
For Irish pilgrims intending to walk the Camino, St. James’ Gate in Dublin was their traditional starting point, as many took the direct route from Dublin to A Coruña (La Coruña) across the water. In modern times, random Canadian peregrinas found it a similarly great place to get started.
Camino stops in Dublin are conveniently located next to each other, concentrated near the Guinness Brewery’s iconic St. James’s Gate. It’s a 20-30 minute walk from the central part of Dublin, but the route takes you past some lovely Dublin stops and through busy neighbourhoods.
Pilgrim credential in hand, I set off for the two stops to obtain three stamps (sellos). The information desk at the Guinness Storehouse was my first stop. The friendly folks at the counter were delighted to stamp my credential with a stamp from the Irish Society of Friends of Saint James and their own from Saint James’s Gate.
The Brewery and Guinness Storehouse is a destination unto itself and our gang took some time to explore the massive brewery and surrounding area. During our wandering, I found the Apostle himself, hiding in plain sight on top of a silo.
The next stop, St. James’s Church, requires a bit more advance planning. I put together various bits of internet information and figured out the Sacristy at St. James’s Church was open weekday mornings from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. It’s located directly behind the church, with an easy-to-find entrance on Echlin Street. Look for the scallop shell over the door! [Update: you can also purchase your pilgrim credencial there, which I didn’t know at the time.]
The Sacristy was busy the morning I visited, with Irish pilgrims stopping in to obtain their own credentials and this random Canadian stopping in for a sello. They couldn’t have been nicer and it really was a highlight of the day.
After the Sacristy, we visited the church. It’s a lovely, quiet spot to take a break after your Guinness tour. There’s a small chapel dedicated to St. James where you can light a candle and spend some time contemplating your Camino.
With my visit to St. James’s Gate complete, I had started by Camino:
I’m told it’s also tradition to have a pint of the dark stuff before heading out. This can easily be accomplished on the tour at the Guinness Storehouse, or you can partake at any number of willing pubs in Dublin. Trust me, there are plenty who are willing to help you accomplish this task.
It may not be the most obvious starting point, but I was so happy to begin my Camino in Dublin. Getting to start a journey that’s been for years in a city that showed me such hospitality was simply the best of both worlds. And for me, a most fitting start to my walk to Santiago de Compostela.
Pilgrims, where did your Camino “start?”