Southern Area Hospice Services Raise £40K By Walking The Camino


Supporters of Southern Area Hospice Services walked the Camino de Santiago in May, and raised a staggering £40K. Here’s how…


Back in May 2018, we hit the trail with twelve supporters of the charity, Southern Area Hospice Service. Their goal?  To walk 113KM from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, with each participant raising money through online donations and sponsorship.

The dedicated group of pilgrims embarked on this once in a lifetime trip to raise vital funds for Southern Area Hospice Services in Northern Ireland. The funds are so important in helping them continue to provide invaluable care and support to patients with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and HIV.

Speaking about fundraising by walking the Camino, Community Fundraising Officer Denise Doyle said, “The groups we have sent out with Follow the Camino have all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Southern Area Hospice Services relies heavily on trips like this to support our organisation as not only do they raise an amazing amount for the Hospice, but the participants get an amazing experience out of it also.  Win-Win!

She added, “Follow the Camino are a highly experienced and helpful organistion from the planning stage right through to after completion of the trip.  Attention to detail is second to none and response to queries is always very fast and efficient.”



12 Pilgrims

113KM Walked

£41,808.89 raised


How Did We Help?

Choosing Route & Section

We helped the group choose the perfect route for their fundraising trip. In this case, the group had little experience with long distance walking, so we advised that they take on the famous last 100KM of the Camino Frances.

This is a popular section, meaning that the 12 pilgrims had plenty of opportunities to meet new people and soak in the atmosphere of the Camino de Santiago. The trail is of easy to moderate difficulty and takes you through some of the most idyllic landscapes and hamlets in all of Spain.

Completing this section also means that pilgrims will walk the minimum required distance of 100KM in order to claim their Compostela (certificate of completion). Once in Santiago, they could present their pilgrim passport to the Official Pilgrim Office and take home a certificate to remember their accomplishment.

One of the pilgrims commented:

 “Doing the Camino has been one of the best things I have ever done emotionally, spiritually & physically. The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. The positives are numerous and made more special as the outcome helps others”.

While the Camino Frances was perfect for Southern Area Hospice Services, we tailor make our trips to suit all fitness levels, adjusting difficulty and distance to suit our clients’ individual needs.

Once we had a destination decided on, we organised:

  • Accommodation
  • Flights (from Ireland)
  • Meals
  • Walking Guide
  • Flights
  • Training Support & Guidance
  • Pre-Walk Information Evenings

Over the past decade, we’ve helped countless charities organise Camino Challenges to raise money for their cause. Whether you have group of 50 or just one pilgrim, we can tailor make a Camino journey of a lifetime.

Get in touch to start planning your Camino fundraiser.

Follow the Camino is an official supplier of Charities Institute Ireland. 

5 Famous Pilgrims You Didn’t Know Walked The Camino

From powerful politicians to iconic actors, we run down a list of some famous pilgrims that have traversed the Camino de Santiago in recent years.

For over a thousand years, countless pilgrims have made the iconic journey to the final resting place of St. James the Greater on the Camino de Santiago. So, there’s no surprise that this includes a few famous faces.

Whether it be for spiritual, religious or personal reasons, these celebrities all found something unique on the Camino.

1. Mary McAleese – Irish President

Mary McAleese
President Mary McAleese

In 2009, while serving her second term as President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, her husband Martin and a group of friends, made their way to Sarria to begin their 112KM pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The now-former Irish president trekked through the Spanish countryside on a traditional Spanish pilgrimage – albeit surrounded by secret service and met by crowds of paparazzi at each stop! 

The president spent a week on the trail but made it back to Arás an Uachtaráin in time to host a reception for Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning rugby team.

Mary McAleese on the Camino de Santiago
President Mary McAleese on the Camino de Santiago

2. Shirley MacLaine – Actor

Shirley MacLaine

Iconic film star, Shirley MacLaine (Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment) trekked the Camino at aged 60 and didn’t let her Hollywood status get in the way of a traditional Camino experience.

There were certainly no five-star hotels or VIP treatment on her pilgrimage. She walked a strict Camino, not availing of any modern conveniences. She stayed in refugios, “begged for food” and insisted on not making any friends along The Way. She famously said of the Camino, “All you really need in life is some fresh water, a good hat, and a really good pair of shoes.” Well said, Shirley!

MacLaine wrote the best selling book about her life-altering journey, called The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit. 

She spoke about her experience on Oprah SuperSoul Sunday’s.

Watch below.

3. Stephen Hawking – British Physicist

In 2008, while visiting Galicia to receive the prestigious Fonseca prize awarded to him by the University of Santiago de Compostela, Stephen Hawking traveled a symbolic section of the Camino in his wheelchair.

The world-famous British physicist visited the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, and even ventured to “the end of the world” Finisterre where local authorities named a town plaza after him. At the unveiling of the new plaque, he said, “It is a great honor to follow Paulo Coelho [author of The Pilgrimage] and accept this plaque in my name,” he said.

4. Angela Merkel – German Chancellor

angela merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel walked a small portion of the Camino de Santiago when she was on a state visit to Santiago de Compostela in 2014.

She walked 6 kilometres of The famous French Way from O Pedrouzo to Lavacolla, with then Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. After the walk, she paid a visit to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela and embraced the famous statue of St. James the Greater.

Merkel is a keen hiker, and spends many of her holidays traversing the Italian Alps… so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if she returned to Santiago for the full Camino experience in the future.

Angela Merkel & Mariano Rajoy on the Camino de Santiago.

5. Andrew McCarthy – Former teen actor

Remember Andrew McCarthy? The name may not ring a bell, but Andrew was a prominent teen star in the 1980s and member of ‘The Brat Pack’, appearing in movies like St. Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink.

For him, it all started when he read a book about the Camino de Santiago just by chance, and within two weeks he was crossing the border from France to Spain over the Pyrenees. At first, McCarthy struggled. Just three days into his journey, he had to take time off for exhaustion and questioned his ability to complete the famous pilgrimage. However, he persevered.

In an article for The Guardian, he wrote:

I was miserable, lonely, and anxious. My long-established habit of solitude had left me completely isolated and without the resources to reach out. My worst fears about myself – among them that I just wasn’t man enough to handle this – were proving to be true. I had come to Spain, I now saw, to determine whether I could take care of myself. As I sat in the Café Iruña on the Plaza del Castillo, the answer that was coming back to me was not good…

But the longer I sat, looking out on the plane trees that lined the square, the more I came to see how failure in this endeavour would later come to haunt me. This was a turning point and I knew it.

McCarthy said that the experience changed him and inspired him to travel the world. In doing so, he has become a well-respected travel writer, penning the best-seller The Longest Way Home.


Have you ever thought about walking or cycling the Camino de Santiago? Take the first step and get in touch today.

5 Best Films About The Camino De Santiago

Get ready to hit the trail with some of the best films about the Camino de Santiago.

The unparalleled scenery, the morning mist on the rolling hills, the rich history, the characters you meet along the way and the abundance of local legend. The Camino de Santiago itself is so dramatic that it’s like something straight out of a movie – so it’s no surprise that it has appeared on the big screen both in Hollywood blockbusters classics and gripping independent documentaries, and that there are many films about the Camino de Santiago.

It’s tough to encapsulate what the 800KM walk to Santiago de Compostela has meant to millions of pilgrims in its thousand-year history, but these films give a beautiful snapshot of different elements of the Way. They capture the spiritual significance and the rich history of the iconic pilgrimage, which is the reason why over 200,000 people from all walks of life embark on the journey each year.

We run through some of the most unique cinematic dipictions of The Way of St. James.


1. Looking For Infinity: El Camino (2017)

Looking for Infinity - El Camino Film

Looking For Infinity: El Camino is a film of just an hour long, gives a lesser seen look at the minds of pilgrims who set off on foot to Santiago. This introspective, beautifully unpolished documentary shows the Camino through the minds and words of real pilgrims.

Many of those pilgrims featured are yearning for meaning in their lives, and to take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life and technology and reconnect with what is really important – whatever that is. It is a fascinating exploration of some of the timeless questions faced by humanity.

Directed by: Aaron Leaman.


2. I’ll Push You (2016)

I'll Push You (2016) - Camino Film
Patrick pushes Justin on the Camino de Santiago

“I’ll Push You: A Camino Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair” is a feature-length documentary following two best friends who set out on their 800KM across mountains, valleys, deserts and swamps. Many have set out on this journey, but none quite like Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray.

Justin suffers from a rare neurological disease which has left him in a wheelchair, and in 2014 he was pushed by his best friend Patrick across northern Spain. This is not just the story of a Camino journey, but an eye-opening look at the struggles faced by Justin on a day to day basis, and an inspiring tale of hope, friendship, and perseverance.

Get the tissues, this one is a tear-jerker.

Directed by: Chris Karcher, Terry Parish


3. St. Jacques… La Mecque (2005)

St. Jacques... La Mecque (2005) - Camino Film

When their mother dies, she stipulates in her will that her three feuding adult children will inherit her vast fortune – but only if the complete the famous Camino de Santiago as a trio.

In this French film, the estranged siblings reluctantly set out to walk from Puy-en-Velay to Santiago de Compostela, and have to learn to work together to reach their destination. In doing so, the two brothers and one sister unite and rekindle their family values.

This warm-hearted comedy was released in 2005 to mixed reviews, but has since become a cult classic for pilgrims.

Directed by: Coline Serreau


4. O Apostolo (The Apostle) (2012)

O Apostolo (The Apostle) (2012) - Camino Film

An escaped convict returns to a remote village on the Camino de Santiago, to recover jewels he hid their years earlier. Once he gets there, he gets a rude awakening when he encounters sinister spirits.

This hauntingly imaginative stop-motion horror masterpiece, by Spanish writer-director Fernando Cortizo, was critically acclaimed upon its release in 2012.  The film received numerous awards and nominations, including a nomination for Best Animated Film at the prestigious Goya Awards in Spain.

Directed by: Fernando Cortizo


5. The Way (2011)

The Way (2011) - Camino Film

This list couldn’t be complete without, arguably, the most famous film about the Camino de Santiago, The Way.

The Way is an original film directed, written and produced by American actor by Emilio Estevez, and starring his real-life father, Martin Sheen.

When Daniel chooses to walk on the Camino de Santiago, but is subsequently killed in the Pyrenees, his father travels to Spain to pick up the journey where his son left off with his sons ashes in his backpack. He goes with the aim of gaining greater understanding of his son, but finishes with a greater understanding of himself.

Emilio Estevez said that in making this film, he wanted to honour the tradition of the Camino de Santiago, and promote the pilgrimage to every demographic.

Directed by: Emilio Estevez


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