Guest writer Mary Fleming walked part of the Camino de Santiago while visiting her daughter who was studying in Santiago de Compostela. A branding specialist, she brought her love of design and all things visual to her review! Read on:

The Camino de Santiago is evident from the time you land in the local airport. The bus to Santiago de Compostela – the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region – was packed walking types and their ‘stuff’. Rucksacks, walking poles, shorts, rainwear, hiking boots were in abundance!

I had four days to pack in all the things I wanted to do! The city is wonder with an old town where you can soak up the atmosphere. There are lots of beautiful narrow winding streets, full of historic buildings and little shops.

The Cathedral of Santiago

Santiago de Compostela cathedral

The Square and the Cathedral of Santiago (which holds the shrine of St James) is the destination point of all the Camino routes. Weary but excited and emotional pilgrims arrive into the Square all the time. Phones and cameras are out all over the place, capturing the moment from every angle.

We bought tickets for the tour of the Cathedral and plugged in our earphones to hear the tour guide. Luckily, my daughter is fluent in Spanish, so she relayed the highlights to me! It was unbelievable to see the workmanship and to think that the Cathedral was built 1,000 years ago. Our group was led out onto the rooftop where my fear of heights promptly kicked in. So I plonked myself down on the roof tiles mid-tour and looked out over the city through squinting eyes! While the rest of the group proceeded up further into the tower, I chickened out and retreated downstairs!

Santiago de Compostela

A view of Santiago de Compostela from the top of the Cathedral

Camino de Santiago

And so to the Camino! Up early and on with the walking boots. Lunches packed for the day. We followed the Camino signs around the city, which were very plentiful at the start and then petered out a bit. We ended up losing the route (of course!), but that turned out to be a bonus, as we would not have stumbled across the City of Culture otherwise. Set on top of the highest hill in the city, it is an amazing group of buildings, which were designed to mimic waves reaching for the sky. I’ve never seen anything like it and highly recommend people to seek this out if you are in the area.

The City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela, a complex of cultural buildings

We walked about 20kms around the city and realised the route we had taken was a subsection of the Camino de Santiago. So we needed to get on one of the ‘big’ routes.

We ‘Googled’ all the routes – there is so much information and so many websites that it is really difficult to do this effectively on a phone! We tried to figure out where to locate the entry point into Santiago de Compostela. Finally (!), we chose to walk out to Lavacolla – the pilgrims’ washing place – and back again.

On the way out, we passed lots of pilgrims walking the last bit of their Camino. Some people looked like they were ready to drop and others were clearly on a high. I can understand how special it must feel for people who have been walking for days or weeks, to finally get to the end destination.

Back to the airport and home to reality. I will definitely be back and take in a stretch of one of the Camino routes, complete with hostels and blisters! It is a walker’s paradise and I can see how so many people choose to go back time after time!

A branding success

Camino de Santiago

Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful place – and very interesting from a branding perspective. The capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region has become synonymous with the Camino. Regardless of people’s religious persuasion, there is a swift mental linking of the two. The scallop shell motif is apparent as soon as you land in the airport and is used throughout the route signage and on everything to do with the Camino. Even the tourist bags are adorned with shells. So essentially, you have visitors (the Camino ‘customers’) spreading the word and acting as sales advocates when they return home.

This is the goal of branding – to take your customers on the journey of becoming aware of you, to trust, to loyalty. Ultimately, they  champion your brand on your behalf. It takes time to build this equity and they have done it very successfully in Santiago de Compostela.


Mary Fleming is a brand strategist and designer based in the beautiful rolling countryside of County Wexford.