El Camino Fonseca

Northwest via Ourense

Rolling Hills and Steep Climbs

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Ourense to Santiago

Ourense to Cea then on to Cotelas: 20 June 2006

In the morning the residents of the albergue discussed the routes they would take as they were packing. The first priority was to find somewhere to have breakfast because the nearby bars were closed. We made our own ways down past the cathedral and through the deserted shopping centre and I managed to find a bar at the very bottom of town just before the Old Bridge. After breakfast I crossed this bridge and was able to get a good view of the very modern New Bridge taking the N525 across the River Miño downstream of the city centre.


Very soon after crossing the Old Bridge there is a large carving by Carballo indicating choice of Caminos. Whichever way you take you will soon be faced with a long steep climb out of the river valley. I followed my guide book and went to the right, rising gently at first, through the streets of the suburbs. At a large petrol station the Camino goes to the right along a quiet road then turns up across a busy main road to enter the Camino Real.


The Camino Real is the remains of the old Royal Road leading north from Ourense. It is in excellent condition in places and is constructed from large granite flagstones. In the old days this would have been one of the few roads available to wheeled traffic but the steep gradient must have needed extra trace horses or oxen to be used to haul wagons to the top of the hill.

The Camino rises for a considerable distance but there are magnificent views back towards Ourense and the river valley. The sun had not quite burnt off the early morning mist when I passed through but I could still see far back along the way I had walked the previous day.


Soon after the village of Sartédigos the steep climb eases into rolling countyside of mixed farming and vineyards. There are several groups of houses passed by the Camino but there does not seem to be any centre of population until Tamallancos.

The way is partly by road and partly along paths but there are plenty of shady wooded sections.


This village, and the closely following one of Bouzas are on the N525 road where a short diversion leads you to find refreshment in roadside bars. There is a bank here and farmacia should you need them.

In the main plaza in Tamallancos there are modern reconstructions of hórreos and, a little further on, at the entrance to Bouzas, there is a row of old ones.


At Bouzas the Camino recrosses the N525 and then goes more or less parallel to it towards the small village of Sobreira.


Although we are close to a major road, the modern world seems to have passed by this region and there are plenty of old buildings and farms to see. The old bridge crosses the river Barbantiño then we pass by several abandoned buildings and then walk up through the vineyards of Faramontaos.


Faramontaos is where you will see several examples of the local Galician style of vineyard. Some vineyards take up whole fields with vines but many smaller farms have the vines lining the edges of the fields on tall trellises of stone. The remainder of the field can then be used as a hay meadow or ploughed for crops.


From here the Camino stays close to the N525 but still manages to find some pleasant footpaths. The villages of Biduedo and A Casanova are on the main road but you are soon taken away from the main road and enter Cea after crossing a bridge over a stream.


Cea is famous throughout the region for the quality of its bread and you will see several signs for the various bakers producing this. It seems that there is an official denomination, similar to that for wine, and only certain bakers are allowed to produce Pan de Cea. In the Plaza Mayor there is a large clock tower with fuentes at the base celebrating the famous bread.

There is a large albergue in a restored old building and I was very tempted to curtail my day's walk here. The albergue was open and seemed in very good condition. By now the day had become very hot and I retired to a restaurant for a small meal and to consider my options. I thought that the climb up to the monastery at Oseira would be too much for me this day and I was unsure if I would be able to secure accommodation if I arrived there late in the day. In the albergue I had picked up a flyer for a private Casa Rural in the next village of Cotelas and made this my destination for the night.

It was only about three or four km to Cotelas and the Casa Rural, O Refugio, also served as the village bar and shop. There were two bedrooms at the rear of the building which were let at a discounted rate for pilgrims. I spent a very restful evening here, chatting to locals and enjoying my evening meal.

This establishment is another example of how the recent popularity of the Camino has enabled facilities to be set up in rural areas for the benefit of the whole community.