Gill Books - Reading Matters



This month we're reading: Buen Camino! by Natasha & Peter Murtagh

05-06-2013 10:45

As part of our reading campaign, Books Are Good For You, each month we encourage our followers to read something different. This June, we recommend Buen Camino! A Father-Daughter Journey from Croagh Patrick to Santiago de Compostela, and we’re giving you a chance to win a copy of this remarkable book!


This is the story of an Irish father and his 18-year-old daughter and their 900-kilometre walk together across northern Spain along the ancient pilgrim route to the tomb of St James. Peter and Natasha’s journey starts in drizzle and wind as they scale Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain in Mayo, before setting off immediately afterwards for the Pyrénées in France. There, they start walking the Camino, the Way of St James, to Santiago de Compostela. It is a gruelling trek over three mountain ranges; through fields and valleys, villages, towns and cities, to the lush countryside and forests of Galicia, and eventually to Finisterre, the pagan end of the earth.


Along the way, they meet a motley collection of other pilgrims — men and women, young and old, from many countries — with whom they laugh, cry and above all have fun amid moments of high drama, exhilaration and sometimes exhaustion. They run with the bulls and parade in a fiesta; they pray with the faithful, and explore the Camino’s rich Christian and pagan history, its tiny churches and majestic cathedrals; they stay in its sometimes Spartan pilgrim hostels and appreciate the richness of living simply, with few possessions, on about €20 each a day. And after five weeks’ walking, do they still love each other? Absolutely… and would do it all again tomorrow if they could...


The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the reputed tomb of St James, whose shrine is in the great cathedral named in his honour in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwest Spain. The Camino is over 1,000 years old and is rich in Christian history and heritage, and indeed in pre-Christian history as well. It attracts people of all faiths and, increasingly, people of none.


Like all pilgrimages, the Camino is a journey. It is an actual physical journey in the sense that it is a walk (or a cycle) from the Pyrénées in France, across Navarra and into Pamplona, then on to the Rioja and across the great Meseta Alta, the high plateau of central northern Spain, home to the cities of Burgos and León, and finally over the mountains of León into Galicia and to the beautiful city of Santiago. The distance is a little short of 800 kilometres, and for those inclined there is a further 85-kilometre Camino to Finisterre, to the end of the earth, where the sun sets beyond the horizon in the Atlantic Ocean.


For some pilgrims, the Camino is a journey intimately connected to their faith, or perhaps faltering faith, in God, and a quest for renewal. But the appeal of the Camino is very broad, and for many who undertake it the pilgrimage is a journey of a different sort. It may be a journey of examination of one’s life to date, taking slices of time and events from a shelf of one’s memory and examining them. It may be a journey taken in remembrance of a recently departed loved one, a time to process feelings and raw emotions, a way of saying goodbye. It may be a journey away from something, the pressures of contemporary life perhaps, which turns into a journey towards something else, a changed life. It may be a journey that is quite simply the pressing of a pause button, time out to take stock.


In all cases the Camino is an opportunity for contemplation and reflection, and many people who undertake the journey find that this contemplative aspect of the pilgrimage has a strongly spiritual side to it. (...)


This is not a guide book, though we hope it will prove helpful to anyone contemplating doing the Camino. You don’t have to walk nearly 900 kilometres to experience the Camino. You can do it in stages over several years. But if you decide to do it, and however you do it, you are highly likely to have an experience that will be with you for a long time and that you will find enriching and uplifting and very rewarding. We certainly did.


And, as you move, unhurried, savouring the experience, people along the way will greet you by saying Buen Camino! - which means, in effect, "Enjoy it."


Natasha & Peter Murtagh


WIN one of three copies of the book! Simply email your details to by midnight, Sunday, June 30th, with ’Buen Camino’ in a subject line. Good luck!


Buen Camino! is available from the Gill Books Online Bookshop, and all good booksellers nationwide.



Natasha Murtagh is a first-year student of English and Philosophy at University College Dublin. She lives at home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, with her parents and brother, three dogs and two cats.


Peter Murtagh is a managing editor at The Irish Times. He is co-author (with Joe Joyce) of two books, The Boss, Charles J Haughey in government (1983) and Blind Justice, the Sallins mail train robbery (1984). He is author of The Rape of Greece — the king, the colonels and the resistance (1994) and has edited 11 editions of The Irish Times Book of the Year. He received the Award for Outstanding Work in Irish Journalism in 1984 and was Reporter of the Year in Britain in 1986 while working for The Guardian. He is 58 years old and also lives at home with his wife Moira, son Patrick and Natasha, and the same three dogs and two cats.



“A lovely book for those who have done the Camino, or like me, are thinking of doing it.” The Dubliner


“This is a travel book, certainly, but it is much much, more than that. It’s about family and friendship and camaraderie, and it is, in the end, a wonderfully warm story about the bond between a loving adventurous father and his daughter ready to embrace the world.” - The Irish Mail on Sunday

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