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Country Road
Country Road, Central Asturias

From Grado to Cornellana

Old Stony Trail
Steep path down
from the Quarry
Kiwi Plantation Bridge into
Muddy Bridge in the Hills The Cornellana Valley Steep, rocky<br>path Coming down to Cornellana Kiwi Plantation Bridge into Cornellana

Beyond Grado the terrain rises sharply up to about 400 meters on the heights of El Fresno, and then drops down into the valley of the Narcea River. Just before the descent, the Camino brings you alongside a major stone and gravel quarry, where you'll have to look sharp to see the shell pyramids and arrows. The descent itself is steep and rocky in spots (see the "Steep path" photo above), and can be slippery when wet. Again, a walking stick will be your best friend here.

Once you're down safely, you continue up the highway to a bridge across the Narcea. The waymarking brings you to the grounds of the great Benedictine Monastery of San Salvador de Cornellana. Some remnants of the old 12th Century construction remain, but most of the existing structure is a 17th Century expansion, not obviously in a good state of repair. It's a perennial problem in Spain: their days of gold and glory are long gone, and the current State has way too much patrimony to maintain. See the photos below.

Around back and on the right side of the compound there is a new Albergue de Peregrinos (at the left, in the "Behind the Monastery" photo below), which was unattended and locked up tight when I came through in late March 2008. People who have arrived when the place was open give it good reviews. Unfortunately, so early in the year, there wasn't even a posted phone number you could call for an hospitalero or llavero, so I continued into town and took a room in the old Hotel Cornellana -- rather expensive at 40 Euros, but very clean.

Despite the weeds growing in the stonework of the Monastery and the disappointment of the closed Albergue, I found Cornellana to be one of the prettiest small towns on this Camino. They've made some nice improvements to the park land around the river, with signage showing what to look for when you see fish. Believe it or not, Cornellana is close enough to the Atlantic coast for the Narcea River to have an annual salmon run (see photo below). Moreover, the place has a civic pride in the appearance and condition of their town that seems utterly lacking in Grado. I found good Asturian eats and cider in local restaurants too, so I decided to stop for the day rather than keep on going to Salas. This turned out to be a fortunate decision.

12th Cent. Apse
First Salmon,
Main Street The Narcea River
Apse of San Salvador, Cornellana Cornellana Albergue First Salmon, 2008 Main Street, Cornellana River Narcea in Cornellana

Tips, Tricks, and Traps

The walk from Grado to Cornellana makes a short day in terms of distance, but covers some fairly rough terrain. Your choices are to stop in Cornellana or continue over similar ground another 10.3 km to Salas, which unfortunately has the worst Albergue de Peregrinos on this whole Camino. I say you're better off stopping in Cornellana.

If you click on the thumbnail of the Kiwi Plantation photo, you'll see a service road leading off the highway toward the right. The waymarking is misleading here. It appears to want you to cross a field of tall and usually wet grass and continue on toward town along the river bank. But there is no further waymarking once you enter the grass. The true intent must be for you to walk on the service road. It will take you safely up to the bridge and off the N-634 highway, which does not have a good shoulder here and is noisy and dangerous.

Camino website offers a phone number to call for entry into the Cornellana Albergue: 647 169 586

Another good site, , suggests you call Cornellana's Town Hall at 985-83-00-04.

Dave Whitson tells me he stayed at the albergue in Cornellana and found it to be one of the better stops along the route. The keys, he says, are available at the Bar La Taberna on the main street. The hospitalero shows up around 8pm to process the pilgrims and stamp credenciales.

Yet another Camino website, gives 690-73-30-17 as the contact phone number. As mentioned above, none of this information is posted on the gate of the Albergue itself. Moreover, numerous postings to the site suggest that my experience of nobody there and no information was far from unusual. One poster advises that you not try to stay in the albergue on St. John's Eve (June 23rd), which is the church's annual festival featuring two orchestras and loud festivities on the grounds of the monastery rocking on until 5 AM.

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