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A pilgrim’s progress

It’s our most popular destination, and there’s obviously more to it than sun, sangria and siestas. Ben Timberlake takes a religious route into the country

Roncevalles is the cradle of heroes, and I felt a complete fraud. I was setting out to ride 500 miles across Spain on a pilgrimage and I could not ride a horse, had never been to Mass and could not even speak Spanish.

This great pass of the Pyrenees is the traditional entry point for pilgrims from France and the setting for the chivalrous medieval epic, The Song of Roland. It was here, on a bright morning last summer that we took delivery of two horses. I watched my girlfriend, Becca, an experienced horsewoman, saddle up her horse and did my best to copy her under the withering gaze of the Spanish horse dealer. The trip had been my idea, and yet I began to realise that not only was I mentally unprepared, I was physically unfit and spiritually unworthy. If God didn’t kill me, my horse would.

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