St James’ Way – 66 miles – 6-7 days – Reading to Southampton. If you wish to undertake the Camino de Santiago, why not begin your pilgrimage authentically in England? The Confraternity of St James have created a pilgrimage route in honour of St James. Walk from the majestic ruins of Reading Abbey, the centre of the St James cult in England in the Middle Ages, to Southampton, a port from which pilgrims would have embarked on their onward journey to Santiago (Sant Iago = Saint James). The Reading Abbey complex would have cost half a billion pounds in today’s money- recently it has had a facelift, and looks very grand. Passing through the rolling countryside and open downs at the heart of the kingdom of Wessex, the route presents no particular physical issues for a pilgrim apart from the distance of 70 miles. Rivers and canals are your (flat) paths, along which you find village churches (often dedicated to St James), riverside pubs and other historic places. The route follows the path Roman road from the remains of Silchester Roman City via the medieval wall paintings at Bramley, then Basingstoke to Winchester Cathedral, the historic place of pilgrimage where you can partake in the nearby ancient charitable institution of the Wayfarer’s Dole – bread and ale – at the Hospital of St Cross to send you on your way for the final push to Southampton. Because there is no ferry service at Southampton, if you want to catch a boat from Portsmouth to Normandy or Spain, then walk the alternative Pilgrims’ Trail direct from Winchester to Portsmouth.
Open views from Silchester Roman Fort
Bramley medieval wall paintings
Southampton Holy Water Conduit and Cenotaph
Holy Places listed in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: Caversham Shrine & Well; Headbourne Worthy; Winchester Cathedral.