Pilgrim's Way to Santiago through Asturias. The Way of the Coast.
The Coastal Way
Long before the French Way was consolidated, without doubt the most well-known and most travelled pilgrim route, the medieval pilgrims started to prefer the so-called Coastal Way for their adventure, a journey of 815 kilometres that passed through the north-east of the peninsula following the coastline.
Busto cape (Valdés).
The increasing influx of pilgrims who came from either outside the Kingdom of Asturias or from the land newly reconquered from the Muslims meant that new routes to reach Compostela were sought.
The Northern Way, also called the Saint James Way Coastal Route, is the extension of the so-called "Soulac Way", that travels the westernmost region of France, when entering the Iberian Peninsula. If the Original Way constituted the first St. James pilgrim road and traced the itinerary that those who walked to the tomb of the Apostle from the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias had to follow, the Coastal Way was defining little by little the route of those who came from further afield than the old royal seat and who were searching for less arduous paths to reach Compostela. Although around the 11th and 12th centuries, different kings started to promote the French Way, the original route and the Coastal Way maintained their popularity. Although it crossed as they were considered safer routes. These routes passes through purely Christianised regions, while the other road, although it crossed was still exposed to possible Muslim raids and, therefore, entailed a greater risk.
As previously mentioned, the Coastal Way starts in Irún and reaches Santiago after crossing the whole of the North of the peninsula. It enters Asturias via the Tina Mayor Estuary and leaves the autonomous region via the Eo Estuary, covering throughout this journey between two rivers over 280 kilometres and twenty-one municipalities. During the trajectory, rural and seaside Asturias are combined with urban Asturias, whose territory is presented as strongly industrialised, thus depicting a profile as comprehensive as it is characteristic of a region that has many more sides, often reflected in the tourist post cards.The official itinerary, which has thirteen stages as it passes through the autonomous region, can be expanded or shortened as much as the pilgrims want, since the area has enough pilgrims' lodgings and tourist establishments for each person to adjust their steps to the demands of the Way.
Nowadays, the route has become nemesis of the French Way: if the latter crosses large mountainous areas to later open up onto the aridity of the Plateau, the former negotiates the bordering stretch in order to run parallel to the Cantabrian sea, offering us a complete panorama of the historic, economic and social circumstances that have dictated the evolution of the north of the peninsula.
There is evidence that during the 13th century, the Coastal Way sustained its heyday thanks to the pilgrims who chose this itinerary when arriving at the Irún pass and those who landed at the ports of Bermeo or Bilbao.
Eo estuary (Vegadeo).
Between the sea and the mountains, from the centre to the peripheral areas
One of the most attractive features that Asturias offers is the perfect harmony between the sea and the mountains. Both are absolute protagonists of the Coastal Way. The first, because it indicates the way of the pilgrims since they enter the autonomous region through the municipality of Ribadedeva until they leave it through the territory of Vegadeo. The second, because it towers over the way: at the beginning, when the pilgrims roam the Eastern strip of the region and discover that in it, the distance between the water and the summits is minimal. And more subtlety at its end, when the broad coastal plains of the West are interrupted, on the edge of the horizon, by the bluish silhouette of the mountain ridges. The Coastal Way outlines an eminently rural, seaside journey, with mandatory steps through towns and villages where you can smell saltpetre while crossing through spots nestled inland where traditional crafts are still practised.
Pría blowholes (Llanes).
There magnificent beaches stand out such as the San Antolín sandbank or the beautiful Concha de Artedo, which are real dream-like spots where you can stop and rest and recharge your batteries before continuing the journey. Among the multiple natural attractions, the torrential spectacle of the blowholes stands out -vertical orifices that during high tide eject shoots of sea water spray- and the silent tranquility of Busto cape. But both spots are interrupted half way through the journey by another Asturias, the one that presides over the central section of the territory, where you can clearly track the print (and the importance) of industrialisation and the consequent migratory influxes from the countryside, the mountains and the ports to the large cities. This is the Asturias we can see between Gijón/Xixón and Avilés (the first and third most important cities, in terms of size, of the region)There, the commercial ports and factories of the former Ensidesa, now Arcelor Mittal, modifying the contours of a landscape in which at no point do you stop hearing, for better or for worse, the heartbeats of history.
Gueirúa beach (Cudillero).
The myths and rites
Indies Archive Foundation (Ribadedeva).
All along the Asturian coastline, echoes of the past assail and call us. The first footprints of history were brought by the voices of the emigrants who, after making a fortune in their destinations, returned to their birthplace to leave their mark on it. The whole village of Colombres is a good example of this. Its installations are located in the "Quinta Guadalupe", a beautiful building that presides over the village centre. The Indies arquitecture, however, will call our attention throughout our trip in places such as Pendueles (with the so-called Casona de Verines mansion, headquarters of some famous literary meetings) and the village of Llanes itself, with the casino, the Basílica de Santa María church and a medieval tower to which beauty we have to add the "Cubos de la Memoria" painted by Agustín Ibarrola.
Near there, in the parish of Naves, the wondrous San Antolin de Bedon Church emerges, one of the best examples of rural Romanesque in Asturias, at which surroundings, history and legend come together. A few kilometres further on, in Ribadesella/Ribeseya, the cave of Tito Bustillo, one of the great Palaeolithic sanctuaries of the north of Spain, offers us the opportunity to contemplate their paintings with admiration.
The silhouette of the church of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores raising itself above the marshland that separates the villages of Barru and Niembru is, probably, one of the most unique views in Eastern Asturias.
Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Llanes).
In this area, inhabited since ancient times, as shown by the Jurassic Museum, located in the vicinity of Colunga, we can note the eagerness to build of the Asturian monarchs, who left the amazing pre-Romanesque church of San Salvador (Priesca) as a legacy. In Villaviciosa the Romanesque church of Santa María de la Oliva stands out for its lightness, and we must also pay attention to the house where Carlos V spent the night, his first night in the Iberian Peninsula, when he came to take possession of the throne. Nearby, in Amandi, another Romanesque church, that of San Juan, will surprise you due to the originality of its apse of semicircular arches supported by double-storied columns.
Jurassic Museum of Asturias (Colunga).
Also, between Gijón/Xixón and Avilés, it is worth walking through the tumular necropolis of Monte Areo hill. Needless to say that both cities invite you to take a peaceful walk through their streets. The silhouette of the Universidad Laboral will remind us that we are entering into the central area of the region; it was designed by the architect Luis Moya during Franco's regime and it is still the largest building in Spain today.
The centre of Gijón/Xixón, with its emblematic beaches of San Lorenzo and Poniente, the neighbourhood of Cimavilla/Cimadevilla and the hill of Santa Catalina, resembles a figurehead oriented to the horizon.
Elogio del Horizonte (Gijón/Xixón).
The old town of Avilés, with its churches of San Francisco and San Nicolás de Bari, its Camposagrado palace and its emblematic Galiana street, is one of the surprises that Central Asturias has in store for us, which is complemented by the avant-garde lines of the Niemeyer Centre.
Galiana Street (Avilés).
Pier in the river mouth of the Nalón (Soto del Barco).
The passage of the Nalón river, in Sotu, remind us that we are entering the western strip, which will be evident when passing through Muros. The west of Asturias is rich in marine places, and although the Way does not pass through Cudillero, it does pass through its surroundings, where it is possible to admire buildings such as the sumptuous estate of the Selgas (El Pito) before being swept away to Soto de Luiña, where we can find the elegant Baroque church of Santa María.In Cadavéu the house where Father Galo lived and wrote is preserved, which is as much as to say the place where modern Asturian literature was born. Also L.luarca is one of the most loved visits of this section of the journey, especially due to its marine cemetery with unique views of the village itself and of the Bay of Biscay. Navia also has literary echoes: the poet Ramón de Campoamor, who was so widely read in the nineteenth century, was born here. The Way leaves Asturias through the village of Abres, once it has passed through A Veiga, to reach the lands of Galicia.
Itinerary and stages of the Coastal Way
Bustio - A Veiga: 281,9 km.
Bustio - Llanes - 24,7 kmBustio | Colombres | La Franca | Buelna | Pendueles | Bufones de Arenillas | Purón | La Ballota | Andrín | Llanes
Llanes - Ribadesella/Ribeseya - 29,8 kmLlanes | Po | Celoriu | Barru | Niembru | Naves | Villah.ormes | Piñeres de Pría | Cuerres | Ribadesella/Ribeseya
Ribadesella/Ribeseya-Priesca - 28,6 kmRibadesella/Ribeseya | San Pedru | San Esteban | La Vega | Berbes | Arenal de Morís | La Isla | Colunga | Pernús | La Llera | San Salvador de Priesca