Stage 25: Villafranca del Bierzo – O’Cebreiro Distance: 27km
Villafranca del Bierzo
Walk through the old town of Villafranca del Bierzo along the Calle del Agua.
Turn left by the Plgrim Statue at the far end of Calle del Agua and cross the bridge over the Río Burbía.
A few metres later at the Calle Pradela, you have a choice of routes to Trabadelo.
Continue along the main road (N-VI) until you reach the Puente del Río Burbia.
Keep going straight untll you come to a hotel after a few hundred metres then take a right and continue along the road into Pereje
Keep on the track along the main road into Trabadelo where you rejoin the recommended route.
Take a right onto Calle Pradela up the steep hill onto a heather lined track that leads along vineyards.
At the top of the incline you get great views of the surrounding countryside and Villafranca del Bierzo.
The path now leads you through a forest of giant chestnut trees at the highest point of the route at 900m.
From here carry straight on along the track until you reach Pradela. There is a bar here if you feel like having a rest.
Continue straight on through Pradela and the chestnut woods on the otherside on a track that now winds steeply downhill into the village of Trabadelo
The path continues alongside the main road. Pass the Hostal Valcarce **. Tel: (0034) 987 54 31 80 and cross into La Portela de Valcarce
La Portela de Valcarce
Continue through La Portela da Valcarce before turning off left for Vega de Valcarce into Ambasmestas.
Walk underneath a high road bridge into Vega de Valcarce
Vega de Valcarce
Vega de Valcarce with it’s Iglesia de Santa María Magdalena is a good place to rest or stay the night before making the steep ascent up to O’Cebreiro.
On the outskirts of the village on the hilltop you can see what remains of the 14th century Castillo de Sarracín.
Opposite the Castillo de Sarracín is the remains of Castillo Autares which was once linked to the Celts, Romans and the Muslims.
On the other side of the village continue along the road passing the Iglesia de San Juan Baustista before entering Ruitelán which has a shop and a bar.
Continue through the village passing the Casa Rural El Paraíso del Bierzo *. Tel: (0034) 987 56 13 22.
Cross the 15th century Romanesque bridge over the Río Valcarce into Las Herrerías
Las Herrerías is named after it’s iron forge which it was once renowned for but has long since gone.
Today the small hamlet, which runs alongside the Río Pereje, has a number of shops, cafés and bars, one of which has its own restored forge.
Continue along the road for a couple of kilometres then turn left onto a path that dips slightly before climbing steeply through a dense wood of chestnut trees. 2km later you will reach the village of La Faba
With it’s 18th century Iglesia de San Andrés, La Faba is a small hamlet with a few shops and a bar.
On the other side of La Faba the tree lined track continues uphill to Laguna de Castilla
Laguna de Castilla
1km outside Laguna de Castilla you come to a stone marker announcing your arrive at the Galician border, Province of Lugo.
Continue on the track for another 1km up into O’Cebreiro
O’Cebreiro has a number of pallozas, distinctive round stone houses with conical thatched roofs, which were inhabited until relatively recently. One of them is part of one of the country holiday establishments in town.
The other is much older and has been converted into a small ethnographic museum, which is free to enter when open, usually in the morning and late afternoon.
A must see in O’Cebreiro is the 9th century pre-Romanesque Iglesia de Santa María Real, the oldest remaining fully intact church on the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela.
It is said that the Holy Grail was once hidden here in the middle ages. The churches bells rang during the winter to guide the pilgrims through the frequent mists.
In the 14th century a local farmer is said to have fought his way through a snowstorm to make mass in the church. The priest exclaimed his disbelief that the farmer would go to such lengths just to get a bit of bread and wine at which point the bread and wine turned into the flesh and blood of Christ. Both are on display in the Capilla del Santo Milagro in silver phials donated by Queen Isabella in 1486 during her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Outside the church you can see the bust of Don Elias Valiña Sampedro the parish priest who did so much in the 1960s and 70s to restore and revive the camino to it’s former glory.
He travelled around Europe giving lectures on his work, The Way of Saint Jame, and in 1984 he marked the Camino Frances for the first time with the yellow arrows you follow today.
He was also responsible for the restoration of the Hostal San Giraldo de Aurillac, without a doubt the most frequented after Roncesvalles since it has been in operation since the 9th century.
There are several shops, bars and resturants in the area.
If it is a clear night it is worth a walk to the top of the hill behind the albergue for a wonderful view of the surrounding area and to catch the sunset.
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