St James’ Way

SE England & London, 6 day, 1 week, Sanctuary

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.

Highlights
Reading Abbey
Open views from Silchester Roman Fort
Bramley medieval wall paintings
Winchester Cathedral
Southampton Holy Water Conduit and Cenotaph

Holy Places listed in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: Caversham Shrine & Well; Headbourne Worthy; Winchester Cathedral. 

We are in the process of adding Sanctuaries to this route, more are due to be added soon. So far you can stay in Sulhamstead and Preston Candover.

Buy St James’ Way Guidebook from Confraternity of St James

View route on OS Maps app

View route on Komoot app

View route on OutdoorActive app

Click to download route/s in GPX file format for your smartphone’s map app

Instructions for using a GPX file to show you the route offline on your smartphone

Give feedback on this route

Reading Abbey

Silchester Roman Fort. Photo credit to Webistry, iStockPhoto.

17 Comments

Give a Brief Review of this Route

Cancel

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Ashley

    Like old like a lovely route.
    What we are really crying out for in UK is affordable accommodation to help this more accessible to people of all socio economic backgrounds. It works out about £135pp over the 3 night trip if there are two sharing. This compares to approx £50 on the Camino in Spain. Has anyone looked into establishing some form of Albergues?

    Reply
    • Guy Hayward

      Yes check out our National Sanctuary Network and the low-cost accommodation options on other routes in our website’s directory.

      Reply
    • Peter Dunn

      I agree that accommodation along the SJW is a real challenge, especially for pilgrims wishing to walk ‘point to point’ at a more leisurely pace, perhaps over 5 – 6 days. For interest, the Confraternity of St James is currently putting together a register of accommodation that will be available on the CSJ website and will provide a range of options, although still limited at this stage

      As the route increases in popularity, other accommodation options are likely to be found, and there are churches, some with parish halls along the way that would be ideal for Sanctuary.

      Reply
      • laura

        hi, i’m planning to the way over the august Bh weekend. would you have a list of the train stations alongthe way? i’m trying to find affordable accommodations but failing it i’ll have to resort to day trips. thanks!

        Reply
        • Dawn Champion

          Hi Laura, we recommend opening up the google map full screen (the little square in the top right corner) as you can zoom in easily and spot all the train stations. You’ll also see accommodation options (pink pins) but this will be all sorts from hotels to B&B’s. The Confraternity of St James is working on some low cost accommodation options – although this isn’t published yet you might try contacting them for advice: https://www.csj.org.uk/st-james-way.

          Reply
        • Clare

          Hi Laura, no suggestions of accommodation but wanted to say hi as I’m planning to do it over the bank holiday weekend too – although starting on Thursday and taking 4 days (and giving the dog a rest day on Saturday so the last leg will be Monday).
          Bramley Station (Hants) is a good stopping point for the end of day 1 as it is 17 miles in. The bit between Basingstoke and Winchester is a bit of a void for public transport but I’d guess that there is a bus from Alresford to Winchester. I don’t know the bit from Winchester so well but that seems a day to Southampton.
          Buen camino

          Reply
        • Clare

          Hi Laura,
          I’m planning to walk it this weekend too. Reading to Bramley is doable on day 1 and there are regular trains from Bramley to Reading. The bit between Basingstoke and Winchester is limited for public transport but there is probably a bus from Alresford to Winchester.
          Sorry I can’t help you on accommodation as I’m relatively local so will do at least the first two nights as day trips, maybe staying over in Winchester if I get organised,
          Buen camino

          Reply
  2. Frank

    Lots of highlights. Even coming out of Reading and skirting the Basingstoke housing estates were surprisingly beautiful., the latter in an avenue of beech trees. One or two bits of busy road near Bramley but what a church! Don’t miss the River Itchen at Ovington or St Cross Hospital.. Excellent food at Purefoy Arms at a good price. Good cake and coffee at Shawford station cafe. Watch out for dodgy riverbank near Eastleigh.

    Reply
  3. Julie MacDonald

    Have just completed this route Monday to thursday last week. Having completed the French way 4 years ago this seemed like a good idea. The route is lovely through wonderful villages . Definitely not enogh signage when you enter a field found it difficult to navigate out again . Got lost a couple of times, just couldnt make sense of the directions. Footpaths were near impassable , extr
    extremely dodgy at Bishopstoke. We had to hack the brambles and nettles back with our poles. Definitely not enough places to get drinks. The places that we did find were fabulous. Hopefully will get better as route becomes more popular. Accomodation was at Little London The Chapel, Alresford The Swan Hotel, Winchester 2 Bare feet, and Southampton Leonardo Grand harbour. All highly reccomended. Not cheap but not alot of options. Would have liked to have done less miles per day but there just wasnt the accomodation available.. Speaking to locals en route the footpaths are always dreadful in summer, no one is keeping them in check which is quite painful for the hiker. Anyway its another Camino finished and like a true Pilgrim we suffered but we loved it.

    Reply
    • David Sinclair

      It’s a quintessentially English Camino so comes with the glorious English countryside, pubs, chalk rivers, medieval history and churches, the port of Southampton, fish and chips! All the beauty of England. Julie, I’m pleased you saw difficulties as an adventure to be enjoyed. CSJ volunteers are working hard to develop and improve the route, so all the points made are being looked at …

      We’ve a long-standing case with Eastleigh Borough Council to improve the Bishopstoke to Mansbridge section, and we do what we can trim back overgrowth along the whole route. It now has over 450 waymarks, and the Hampshire County Council Countryside Team did kindly put up posts in all places initially requested to help guide pilgrims. The only two places you may have struggled to find the exit of a field is at the golf course before a main road crossing and Worting Wood Farm or through a hedge heading toward Upper Wield – we did erect our own small post at the end of the golf course, but it’s not noticed and gets knocked down, and the hedge has a waymark on a bush in the hedge. We’ll see what more we can do to make the route obvious at those points.

      The directions given in the guide will be improved in the next update. We are hoping to offer a map booklet next year through a partnership with a mapping company, despite the Camino’s recent addition to digital OS Explorer maps and a GPX route file that will be added to the CSJ’s website St James’ Way dedicated webpage very soon.

      The supplementary page to the current guide lists pubs along the route – this page will also be available on the CSJ website to download. I’m sure that pubs will offer water refills if asked, yet sometimes there are shops nearby hidden slightly off route, so we’ll give more info in the next guide about them, and more advice about this.

      We’ve just started to request great places along the route to offer Sanctuary through this website. Yet it’s early days on this front as it takes a while for the providers to ensure everything is covered. The CSJ’s St James’ Way Fund hopes to provide soft matting to these sanctuaries for pilgrims to sleep on. A comprehensive accommodation list for the route to help find places to stay will also be available via the CSJ’s webpage soon.

      The volunteers are doing their best.

      Reply
  4. Steven Turner

    Hi I am planning to do this route in the 1st week of September and then go over to Spain after the 15th to complete my Way of St James Pilgrimage. I understand I can get a Comino passport before go but where do I get it stamped in the UK as I walk the route?

    Reply
  5. Steve Carr

    Hello
    I have walked 180 miles of the SW Coast Path so far with my small hiking tent, this has been brilliant for use of campsites and the odd times for wild camping.
    I agree, hotels in England take a touch of sparkle out of the overall experience.
    I would like to walk the St James Way but my choice of accommodation will be stored on my back..

    Reply
  6. Magie Jordan

    Partner and I walked part of the route as we are on our way to Southampton to pick up cruise ship going to northern Spain and including a visit to Santiago de Compostela.

    Reply
  7. Angela

    We are thinking of starting this over autumn with our two dogs. Are there any roads where this might be difficult with the dogs?

    Reply
  8. Michael and Nancy Grant

    Michael and Nancy Grant, Orange County California. 3:33 pm October 8, 2023.
    Just completed the walk from Reading to Southampton. It was a delight! We bought the little guide book from the Reading museum and combined with the well-placed way markers, we always knew where we were. Compliments to the volunteers who placed them! Including Reading, we were on the trail for nine nights. We were able to secure accommodation at various pubs, hotels, or Airbnb along the route. The weather was near perfect and the English countryside is beautiful. We’ll be back!

    Reply

Featured Great Routes