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I have provided a few notes here on my experience of finding accommodation in England, France and Spain while walking from Worcester to Compostela. First it should be said that notes on accommodation become quickly out of date, so this is neither definitive nor comprehensive, of course. Secondly, the experience will depend very much on the budget for the journey. My budget was twenty Euros per day for the entire three months pilgrimage. If you are doing a staged pilgrimage (e.g. returning the following year to do the next stage) you may have more funds available, therefore accommodation will be easier to find.
Generally speaking, budget pilgrim accommodation is more difficult to find in England and France than on the Spanish Camino routes. For this reason I recommend a lightweight tent which can be posted home when you reach territory with more frequent pilgrim accommodation. Anything over two kilos in weight is impractical for walking, so be prepared to invest more money for less weight: it will save you in accommodation costs anyway. The tent pictured here was lent to me by a friend in France so it could be easily posted back from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port before crossing the Pyrenees.
Chemin des Anglais, Dieppe to Tours
The Amis de Saint-Jacques de Normandie can advise on accommodation on the Chasse Marée to Rouen as it is a favourite walking route. They will have up to date information and are very friendly and helpful towards English pilgrims.
Likewise on the Chartres to Cloyes-sur-le-Loir section, the Amis de Saint-Jacques Notre Dame de Chartres (08 92 97 68 47) can provide information and even arrange accommodation (as pictured on left in Vendôme) with families who are members of pilgrims association.
There are B&B’s and hotels within a day’s walk at every step of the way from Dieppe to Tours if you can afford the commercial prices. Otherwise my advice is to have a tent with you and there is always somewhere to pitch it (officially or unoficially!) Municipal campsite are recommended as they tend to be more fairly priced. There is a reason for this: a moderate campsite fee encourages visitors and boosts the town’s economy.
The gite d’etape mentioned on Day 26 at Château-Renault cost 7.70 euros for the night and if I recall correctly it had twelve beds in two dormitories. There are probably more gites détape on that route if you look them up in a guide. I chanced upon this one.
Via Turonensis – the GR655
Apart from religious houses on the GR655 (and examples of particular abbeys and monasteries are mentioned in Walking Out of the World), the specific pilgrim accommodation is still not easy to find as in Spain but it does exist. Larger towns have pilgrim hostels and the churches are the best place to ask for them, as they are usually connected with the diocese. Sometimes, as in Saintes for example, a large pilgrim hostel is attached to a historic church. The rule of thumb is, the further south you travel, or the closer you get to the Pyrenees, the more pilgrim accommodation you will find!
If you are accustomed to the Camino Francés, be aware that you are sometimes going to find yourself paying for B&B at prices which may not be within your pilgrim budget.
Even religious houses can sometimes have unaffordable fixed prices. (In Day 27 I mention that the convent attached to the Basilique Saint-Martin in Tours charges 24 Euros as the “prix de participation” and other religious houses have similar fixed charges. A Catholic pilgrim should have no hesitation in asking a monastic guestmaster to put them up in the wayfarer’s accommodation, used by men of the road. You are not depriving a tramp of his bed because all monastic houses have plenty of space and can always accommodate more men of the road!
Details are mostly provided in the daily stages. Unlike France, there is no shortage of accommodation on the Camino Francés in Spain, so I don’t really think much comment on it is really necessary. Guidebooks are regularly updated and contain all the information about pilgrim accommodation.