This “English route” owes its name to the first travellers who travelled this route. Its history begins in the Middle Ages, when all Europe had echoed the news of the discovery of the remains of St. James the Apostle. Many pilgrims from Nordic countries, from Germany, Holland, Belgium, northern France, Great Britain, Ireland and even Iceland, chose this sea route to reach Galician ports and continue the pilgrimage to Compostela by land.
Ferrol, which in the late Middle Ages was mainly a fishing port, became one of the most important landing places for pilgrims at that time. So much so that a hospital was built to assist them. At that time the precariousness of the ships and the pirate raids made the journey an odyssey.
Pilgrimages by sea had a great development, especially during the Hundred Years’ War, in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the continuous clashes between France and England made pilgrimages by sea safer than by land routes. This meant a great advance in boats and navigation techniques.
The magnitude of the English itinerary became so great that, in 1428, the number of British pilgrims embarked for Galicia exceeded 4,000, distributed in 61 ships. According to historians, most of the pilgrims belonged to the working classes. The price of the trip was equivalent to an average worker’s monthly pay, a relatively affordable cost.
Like the other Jacobean routes, the English Way also fell into oblivion from the 16th century onwards. It was not until the late twentieth century when public initiatives were taken for its revitalization, dissemination, signage and construction of shelters.