Some GR1 Q & As

Thanks Stephen for your questions - I hope you don't mind me sharing them alone with the answers.

1 Cows. You mention that walkers on the GR1 will see herds of cows. My wife and daughter have been known to refuse to walk through a field of cows in this country. (My wife and I got charged by a herd once in Cornwall, and the three of us had a fairly alarming experience on the Black Isle a few years ago.) It may be that faced with the necessity of reaching somewhere to spend the night, and no obvious way of giving the field a detour, they will be prepared to take a few more risks. I just wondered, did you ever find yourself being followed around by a field-full of over-excited cows? Or did they tend to be the uncurious/docile type?

Cows - I've never had a problem.  The big difference between Spain and the UK, certainly in the mountains, is that they don't have fields.  This might sound bizarre but it's non the less true.  Cows and more often sheep are left to graze in unenclosed open spaces, often with a shepherd in tow who is helped by the huge Spanish sheep dogs.  Unlike the UK, with its field system,  it's unusual to find yourself in a confined space with cows.

2. Dogs. My wife and daughter are dog lovers, so with any luck this won't be a problem. I think you mention in your blog that walking poles are handy for fending off dogs. I just wondered how often you had to do this, and how stressful these occasions were?
In Spain dog's are used to guard property which is otherwise empty.  They will bark as you approach a farmstead or a village but will be on the other side of a wall or fence designed to keep you out and them in.  The barking can be intimidating however and a waving a walking pole helps with nerves and does seem to calm the dogs.  Touch wood I have never been bitten.

3. Mosquitoes. We will take anti-mosquito cream come what may. I just wondered how serious a problem mosquitoes are, in your experience, in northern Spain in June/July. We'll put up with them even if you say they are a constant annoyance. I am hoping, though, that you will say they are not a major problem.

To be honest I haven't walked in June July in this part of Spain.  Mosquitoes however need still water to survive and there isn't much of that on the GR1.  I don't think you will have a problem but can't be definitive

4. Overgrown paths. You mention somewhere, either in your book or on the blog, that you have had to scramble up a bank to escape from a sunken road that was full of vegetation. This makes me wonder how much we should be prepared for brambles and nettles etc. (I don't know whether these features of the British countryside ever appear in Spain, but perhaps there are equally annoying equivalents?) Should we be planning on wearing long trousers every day? Are boots that come up above the ankles desirable (I note your comment that it makes a lot of sense to wear light footwear, but I have also noticed that even quite light shoes/boots can come in different types, some of which cover the ankle)? If dense overgrowth is only an occasional a problem, maybe we can reckon on wearing trainer-style shoes (though with stiffer soles) and shorts.

Occasionally the original paths, the ancient routes which the GR1 generally follows will be overgrown but all this means is that you will have to walk in the land alongside the paths.  Some of the old abandoned villages are getting overgrown with brambles but so don't have to go through them.    This is definitely shorts country particularly in the early summer.

Footwear generates a lot of debate but I wear trainers.  My footwear of choice are  - superlight Inov-8 Roclites fell running shoes which are both cool and comfortable.

5. Washing clothes. If we travel light, we will have to wash clothes now and again, so we will take some travel soap. On the other hand, as there will be three of us, I imagine I would be tempted occasionally to ask the owner of the hostal or casa rural if he/she would be happy to wash a bag-full of dirty clothes. Did you ever try this, by any chance?

Getting your clothes washed won't be a problem.  My own technique is to carry 2 sets of walking clothes.  One I wear in the evening and one in the day.  I wash the day wear in evening and they dry overnight.  Recently I've shifted to merino everything and they don't smell and dry very quickly.

6. Cash.You occasionally say in the book that there is an ATM in such-and-such a village or town, which is very useful. I just wondered whether small restaurants, hotels and casa rurals were set up for electronic payments, or whether we should always make sure to have enough cash for anything we are likely to need until we encounter the next ATM, or whether we can count on paying by card most of the time.

The private casa rurals don't take cards but everywhere else does.  There are also a lot more ATMs in Spain than in this country and even the smallest towns have them.

For a discussion about camping on the GR1 go to this blog.


  1. Problem 2. Dogs. Pick up a stone and pretend to throw it at them, I usually find this scares them off.
    Season's greetings to you John.

  2. Hi John,
    First of all, congratulations for your book. I have it, and I'm glad I have it:)It looks beautiful, well-written and informative!
    But as it's for people who uses other accommodation than a tent, I would like to ask couple of typical questions from a camper's point of view:

    1) How difficult would you rate camping along the GR1 Sendero Historico, in overall? (terrain, number of public campsites etc.)
    2) Is camping allowed/tolerated? (an overnight pitch with a small tent/tarp, late evening to first light of the morning)
    3) Any spesific areas, like national parks, where even bivouacking is forbidden and this is observed by park rangers?
    4) Thanks to your book, I believe GR1 will attract more and more walkers but how solitary walk it is actually? How are the chances to meet fellow hikers, either on shorter trips or doing the whole GR1?

    Thank you for your insight! All the best,

    1. Hi Antti

      Thanks for your kind comments and for buying the book.

      The first thing to say is that I'm not a camper and the guide has been written for people who prefer to stay in a bed each night - so I'm not a camping expert. A number of people have asked the question however and based on the interest I don't think you will be alone if you decide to camp. One of my favourite hiking bloggers - walked the GR7 through Spain in the winter and she wild camped and didn't have any problems. Providing you follow the conventions of wild camping (choosing a discreet location etc) you should be fine. My general view is camping is tolerated rather than encouraged.

      The Spanish countryside and this part of Spain in particular is empty and if you're walking outside of the school holidays seeing other people, either walkers or rural workers, will be a novelty. This should make it easier to engage in wild camping.

      The GR1 travels through lots of 'natural parks' - in Spanish terms these are parks looked after by the regional government rather than the national government. Apart from occasional information boards there impact on the ground is not that marked. There is a bear reserve (mentioned in the text) in the first section of walk and camping should be avoided there.

      Your blog is excellent by the way, great read

      Best wishes


  3. Hello John,

    I have just ordered your book and I am waiting for it to be delivered. I would like to hike the GR1 in September/ October 2021 and from what I have been reading so far, there aren't a lot of other hikers on the trail to tram up with. I would like to hike with a buddy, any suggestions on that?

    Greetings from the Netherlands, Marja

  4. Hi Marja. Thanks for ordering the book. September October is a good time of year to go and the weather should be perfect. It is a very quiet route and given its length you're unlikely to meet anyone on the same schedule as you. I suspect the best way of finding a walking buddy is do a shout-out on one of the specialist groups on Facebook.

    Feel free to ask any questions and good luck

    Best wishes John

  5. Hi John,

    Got your book and planning to walk section 5 in April. Two questions I have I can’t find the answers to in neither this blog or the book:

    Do you have cellular connection throughout the trail, or most of it? I wonder if I should bring a satellite communicator traveling alone where you don’t see a lot of other people.

    Second: do you find a lot of water along the way? A water filter be enough if you come across some ponds or streams a couple of times a day.

    Planning on wild camping mostly, and so my third question (I know, but I write this disclaimer instead of editing the beginning of my post) would be: any idea how cold it can get at night in early april?

    1. Great stretch of walking.

      To be honest it's now 10 years since I did the walk and mobile phone connection was something I didn't really consider. Based on more recent experience however I would say that connection is good but would doubt it's 100 per cent. Sorry I can't be more precise.

      You should be able to find water, most of Section 5 is in a valley bottom with the stream running through it and in April there should be plenty of water in the stream.

      It depends on the season and in particular how much snow they have had in March I would expect it to be cold at night at the very least. Spring is very short season in this part of the world.