If you’ve been walking for eight hours in the rain and cold up to Roncesvalles from Sant Jean Pied de Port it’ll feel like heaven as you shed your backpacks and poles at the entrance to Posada de Roncesvalles. When you walk into the crowded bar and feel the warmth of the log fire, smell the hot coffee or see Pilar behind the bar pulling pints of beer, serving sandwiches or opening bottles of tinto, you’ll know it’s been worth it. Push forward to the bar and make yourself known. You’ll be cosy and warm until you’re back on the Camino de Santiago the next morning.
If you left Madrid after lunch on your way to France by car and are breaking your journey on the Spanish side of the border, you might just arrive in the early evening as a horde of pilgrims descend from the albergue just above Posada de Roncesvalles for the first dinner sitting. You’ll be wanting your room key but you’ll have to wait as the pilgrim queue up at the bar clutching their €10 to pay for their three course meal with wine. You won’t want to put your suitcase down on the dripping wet flagstone entrance amongst rucksacks, capes and hiking poles. No matter that you parked minutes before the the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalle arrived just in time for the first dinner sitting, you’ll have to wait, it’s the pilgrim who is king in the Posada.
I stayed at the Posada on my way down to Sant Jean Pied de Port to join my brother who had flown out from the UK. We were going to cycle the Camino de Santiago. To get my bike up from the south of Spain I needed a place to meet up with my bike which I had sent with a transport company. When I phoned and spoke to Pilar the hardworking manageress who together with her busband run the Posada, to ask if I could have my bike delivered there, she was charm itself. Transporting a bike in Spain is not easy and it took a weight off my shoulders
The address I gave the transport company and for Posada de Roncevalles is Calle Única, which translates as ‘Only Street.’ Until I got to Roncesvalles I couldn’t see how could be but there is in fact only one street, the main road through Roncesvalle. Pilgrims cross the road just in front of the hostal to begin their Camino to Santiago de Compostela, 790 kms away.
After my hour’s journey up from Pamplona bus station, Pilar greeted me to say my bike was safely in the shed outside. What a relief! My room was fine, warm and comfortable and overlooked the very start of the Camino. I had a drink in the bar after a good dinner, logged into the free wi fi and established communications with my family. Things were starting to fall into place. From my bedroom window the next morning I watched as the earliest walkers and cyclists set off in the mists on their first stage in Spain. Some had arrived with me on the bus from Pamplona the evening before, others had come up from Sant Jean Pied de Port the day before.
A very sociable Dutch girl asked me to sit with her at the breakfast table. She was setting off later that morning. We swapped life stories and wished each ‘Buen Camino.’ The cameraderie of the Camino breaks down the normal reserve of most travellers. Pilar had arranged a lift for me down to Sant Jean. It was only as I retrieved my bike from the cellar that I realised I could have ridden down. My taxi driver had to do a school run first so I had time to look around Roncesvalles. There’s not a lot to see but the setting is beautiful, very green, open fields with cows grazing and peaceful.
If you look at the top of the map, the first building you’ll see as you trudge or free wheel down the hill is the Roncesvalle albergue. There’s no short cut so stay on the road until you’ve rounded the sharp bend and you’ll see Hostal Rural Casa Sabina on your left which also serves evening meals. Turn left for the albergue making your way towards the arch between the Colegiata de Santa Marta de Roncevalles and the Hotel Roncesvalles. If you’re lucky enough to be booked in for your first night at Posada de Roncesvalles, carry on down the road, it’s the second last building with a red room at the bottom of the map and that’s Roncesvalles for you!
Here are the address and contact details for Posada de Roncesvalles:
POSADA DE RONCESVALLES
My advice is to email first for a reservation and if you don’t hear back in a day or so, then phone, especially if you are reserving in in the busy Camino de Santiago months. PS You’ll be pleased to know we finished our pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela 12 days later.