The Walking Pilgrim

The Walking Pilgrim: Routes Pages

Welcome to the Walking Pilgrim routes pages. These display information from my database of modern walking routes to pilgrimage shrines in Europe. There is no hard and fast rule about what constitutes a 'route', but I define it as one where there is either waymarking or some sort of guide for walkers, preferably online. This means I do not include the many regular mass pilgrimages, such as Paris-Chartres or Warsaw-Czestochowa, unless there is a published description of the route.

Nor is there any real rule on how a 'pilgrimage route' differs from any other walking route. In general, pilgrimage routes are based on historical medieval roads, and visit towns, especially those with a shrine or other religious connections, whereas walking routes are pleasant walks in the country. In practice, some of those claimed as 'pilgrim roads' are just rebranded existing long-distance paths and have little to do with pilgrimage.

Although my criteria are for walking routes, many can also be used by cyclists, and even where a section is not really usable by cyclists it is generally easy for them to deviate onto a minor road going in the same direction.

Note that I no longer distinguish between roads to Santiago and other roads; increasingly, this is becoming blurred, as more routes are marked in both directions. In many cases, the links with Santiago are pretty tenuous anyway.

Maps

The possibilities of 'mapping for everyone' continue to improve rapidly:

  • many European countries now provide some sort of detailed topographical maps free for non-commercial purposes
  • availability of affordable GPS devices means that anyone can accurately place both geographical points and linear routes
  • freely available map programs such as Google Maps/Earth also make it easy for those without much knowledge of cartography to produce points and detailed routes
  • open-source mapping software also continues to improve apace, so it's now open to anyone with a reasonable knowledge of programming to combine these routes and points with the topo maps to provide sophisticated online maps

Accordingly, I have now

  • scoured the web for detailed route lines for the many pilgrim routes in my database; these now cover quite a substantial proportion of the main routes; they are generally Google Earth (kml) or some sort of GPS/GPX file
  • used OpenLayers to overlay these on the national topographical maps; I currently have the ability to use maps of GB, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic
  • used other open-source software (featureserver, mapserver, tilecache) to rasterise Europe-wide overview maps of these, so browsers only have to download small image files instead of the many thousands (if not millions) of points in the KML/GPX files

So:

  • each route in my database continues to have a rough overview map, simple straight lines between points that make no pretence of being detailed representations of the route on the ground; the points are either junction-points with other routes or important towns or other points added so the line is not grossly misleading. These continue to be used to produce the overview map (a Google static map) on the route details page
  • the Detailed Mapping page lists those routes for which I have a detailed route line; the individual route pages include links to display this:
    • either a page for the whole route; this is not recommended for the longer routes as they contain many thousands of points which first have to be transmitted to your browser and which the browser then has to plot against the map base. On a slow connection or machine, this could literally take several minutes
    • or an overview map for the route showing its various sections; you can then click on a section to get a detailed map of that section
    • those routes which cross national borders have links to both sets of topo maps
    • two countries - Switzerland and Austria - currently have no freely available map web service, but the detailed line of Swiss routes is shown on the wanderland.ch viewer; links to this are given in the route details text
    • in all cases, the route line can also be displayed with an OpenStreetMap, Bing Maps or Google Maps background
  • in addition, there is an overview map of all routes; those for which I have detailed lines are shown in a different colour from those which are simple overview lines. This takes a time to load, but you can then zoom in for more detail, and click on the route lines to get more information on the route

Please let me know if you know of any other detailed lines for any other routes. If you know a route personally and would like to add it to the list, you can either create a detailed line using Google Maps/Earth or a GPS device, and send it to me; or I can tell you how to plot a route on the topographic maps. Most of these routes are plotted by individuals as they walk or cycle a route; they thus reflect the route those individuals took and may not follow the official route exactly; they also may not include alternative routes. If you'd like to help improve any route you know, please let me know.

Finally, if you would like a copy of any of the original KML/GPX files, please download this from the original site I obtained it from.

Although I no longer use the regional groupings I had before to display overview maps, the logic to combine routes so several can appear together on one Google static map is still available. You can use this to create any route overview map you like; see Roll Your Own Route Map page for information on how to do so.

And if you prefer a simple alphabetical list of routes, this is still available.

If anyone has any good ideas on how to improve these pages, please let me know!

December 2008