Even before the boom in pilgrimages to the tomb of the apostle in the 11th century, this route, also known as the Royal Route, was already one of the main arteries in the territory. This road, which enters Green Gipuzkoa through the Oria river valley and crosses the Álava plain towards the Castile plateau, has been used since Roman times.
Pilgrims who reached the mouth of the Bidasoa from all over Europe continued to use this thoroughfare. They knew that the Inland Route was not the quickest, although it was the most practical, safe and sheltered. Alfonso X, the Sage, had fortified points, which increased the importance of the road. However, pilgrims always found the slope up to San Adrián tunnel hard work, and would often rest on the other side in a completely different landscape, that of the Álava plain.
Stage 1: Irun - Andoain (30.9 km.) Santiago bridge crosses the Bidasoa and enters Gipuzkoa through Irun, a town which conserves the Romanesque sculpture of the black Virgin of El Juncal in the parish of Nuestra Señora del Juncal. Passing through Gurutze district, the route takes several Oiartzun rural roads until it reaches Astigarraga, which is famous for its cider factories. Here we will go down to the small 13th century Hermitage of Santiagomendi, one of the most outstanding references to St. James in the territory. The route goes around the town of Hernani following the banks of the Urumea river, before heading into Urnieta. A former railway line will take us to Andoain.
Stage 2: Andoain - Beasain (36.6 km.) From Andoain, the Inland Route follows the course of the Oria river, passing between main roads and groups of homesteads through Billabona, Anoeta and the small town of Hernialde, until it enters Tolosa. Tolosa was one of the towns created by Alfonso X, the Sage, and subsequently became the capital of Gipuzkoa. The Ospital-Zaharra (Old Hospital) which took in pilgrims, Idiakez Palace and the parish of Santa María are some of the points where it is worth stopping. From here the road enters a more mountainous area, in the district of Santa Marina de Albiztur at the foot of Mount Murumendi, the geographical centre of Gipuzkoa. When coming down to Beasain we will see the monumental site of Igartza.
Stage 3: Beasain - Zalduondo, Alava (34.3 km.) From Beasain, the road goes up to the top of Olaberria, from where we can contemplate the whole of Goierri, and then leads to Kurutzeta Hermitage in Idiazabal. The next point is Segura, with an old district which was declared a monumental site, and which still conserves its mediaeval structure. We will then pass alongside Santa Bárbara hermitage before reaching, after various ups and downs, Zegama, where the current Las Nieves Hermitage was formerly the hospital for pilgrims. We shall descend through the woods, with the Hermitages of Iruetxea and Sancti-Spiritus as our reference, until we reach the hillside which crowns the tunnel of San Adrián, which has provided passage through the rock since ancient times. Further on, Alava awaits.