Domhnall Mac Síthigh - Danny Sheehy - is the prayerful one, the watchful one, the poet from Dingle who writes a lot in a thick notebook. He is penning his account of this pilgrimage by naomhóg or traditional West Kerry currach from Ireland to the holy site that is Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

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Then you have Glen Hansard, who, without any boatman experience, boldly steps in as a sub when one of the crew must stay in Dingle. Somewhere along the Northern coast of Spain, or it may be in Basque country, Hansard sings a beautiful sad ballad, joined by Basque or Galician musicians. Fellow crew member Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich - Brendan Begley - plays the accordion.

Danny sits at the back of the room, he is the poet alone, at a remove from the musical gathering, yet keenly attentive to the performance. Towards the conclusion of the film the pilgrims have reached their destination in Santiago, in North-West Spain in the region known as Galicia. 

Danny says as Gaeilge how he hopes to come back the following year, 2017, when the plan will be to journey once again with his friends from Santiago to Finisterre, further along the rocky coast, once again by naomhóg. Then on to Portugal, he says, and hopefully Morocco and there is a glint of anticipation in his eye as Danny visualises the place.

However, it is the way of the sea to have its way, as Brendan Begley, another thoughtful man, makes clear in The Camino Voyage. Danny, who was born in 1951, would lose his life in high seas off the coast of Galicia that following summer.

Glen Hansard and Brendan Begley in the Camino Voyage

Nevertheless, Danny had done what he and his comrades had set out to do, to travel by sea on the 2,500 km pilgrimage in three stages, during the summer months. They returned home, their naomhóg was left in capable hands to winter in France.

These brave men were following the example of intrepid Irish pilgrims, who sailed from Ireland centuries ago to the city of A Coruña in North-West Spain prior to completing their final leg of the Camino by foot to Santiago de Compostela. Camino means 'the way' or 'the road' in Spanish. It is not entirely clear how the more recent pilgrims got from A Coruña to Santiago de Compostela. Certainly no one could have expected them to walk, least of all themselves. There was at least one car drive, in South-West France, for reasons best explained by the film itself.

We first meet the four men, Danny and Brendan, along with the artist Liam Holden and the stonemason Brendan-Pháid Ó Muircheartaigh - Brendan Moriarty - as they row down the River Liffey into Dublin Bay in the summer of 2014.

The boatmen then work their way down the East coast, past Rosslare to Carne, with its small harbour. The tents are pitched and a man on the quayside remarks that Wexfordmen would make it quicker to Wales than Kerrymen. That's a moot point presumably, and they are not all Kerrymen - Holden is a Dubliner who settled in Dingle.

The Camino Voyage: to Spain by naomhóg 

The latter-day pilgrims are accompanied by a guide or supply boat as they head for Wales and Cornwall, a vital lifeline when the weather gets rough. The men on the supply vessel also warn cargo or passenger ships passing about the presence of a small boat nearby and counsels them to be careful.

At one point the pilgrims must clamber on to the yacht, as one of them calls the supply boat. The naomhóg is towed behind them while they rest from the arduous rowing. The ever-optimistic Begley is glad that they have made good progress that day. However, the hard work with the callused hands ended when the seas grew dark and baleful.

Begley, who comes from a family of revered musicians in Dingle, is a fascinating man, a philosopher with sea legs. He keeps up his high spirits even when he is holed up for miserably rainy days in a Basque port. The hospitality of the locals is great and the welcome is genuine but Brendan wants to be on his way towards Santiago.

He has itchy feet for the sea, the rhythm of all the rowing has got into his blood and into the welts on his hands. The Camino Voyage is a heartwarming documentary that should not be missed. It has already won awards at the Dingle International Film Festival, the Luxembourg British & Irish Film Season, the Irish Screen America Film Festival, NYC and An tOireachtas Media Awards, 2018.

Paddy Kenoe

The Camino Voyage screen from Friday, November 23 at the IFI, Dublin; Pálas, Galway; IMC, Dún Laoghaire; Triskel, Cork; Cinema, Killarney; Phoenix, Dingle