The Pilgrim and her Swag of Sins


Pilgrim seeks sinners for mutually beneficial arrangement.

Seven Deadlies a specialty.


With those words my journey began.

Less than a month later I found myself hiking through olive groves, making my way from the legendary city of Granada, towards the cliffs at Finisterre in the far north-west of Spain.

On my back was an unusual cargo – a load of sins. In the tradition of medieval believers who paid others to carry their sins to holy places and so buy forgiveness, my friends and colleagues donated a sin in order to fund the quest. Among the many I received were anger, envy, sloth and lust.

Through tiny pueblos and vast vistas, miracles found me. Angels in both name and nature eased my path. Sins found me too. At every stage of the journey I was tempted and I battled, mostly with myself. I laughed, I lusted, I raged, I cried and I walked. I walked and walked and walked!

And I fell in love: with kindness, with strangers, and with Spain.

Sinning Across Spain celebrates the mysteries of faith, the possibilities for connection, and the beautiful act of setting one foot down in front of the other.

36 thoughts on “About

  1. I have jut purchased a copy of your book, I look forward in reading about your journey as the Camino has had a hold on me for some time even though I have not walked the pilgramige myself.

    • Thanks Maree. I think you will have to wait until after April 1st to receive it, but when you do I hope you enjoy it.

  2. Hi Ailsa I have a copy which I purchased from Dymocks here in Hobart Tasmania . I am going to start reading the book tonight, Cheers Maree

    • WOW! I think you are my first sale, Maree! Dymocks in Hobart don’t muck around, do they? They have got the jump on everyone. How exciting. I hope that if I can get down to Tassie, we can meet. I’d like to say hello to the person who bought the first copy.

  3. Hi Ailsa, Dymocks would have to be the best book store we have in Hobart, excellant service and friendly staff. May be when you are in Hobart next you should check them out. Are you going to have a book signing at any stage? Maybe this could be arranged with Ian the owner of the store here in Hobart, and yes I would certainly love to meet you, Cheers Maree

  4. I’d LOVE to make a visit to Hobart. Last time it was at the end of a hike along the Overland, and Hobart was a glistening jewel with the best shower I ever had in my life! And now I hear it has a great bookshop. Pretty perfect city – harbour, mountain, MONA (we all want to come!) and lit bliss! I’ll do my darndest.

  5. Great! We have a great island treasure here, my Husband was involved with the construction of Mona, Look forward to your visit here in Hobart.

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed listening to you talking with Phillip last night.
    As your skills include playrighting, maybe you’ll be interested in browsing my 2011 fiction novel from a screenplay angle. More detail on website.
    If interested, I’ll snail mail a copy to you.

    • Thanks so much Mike. I’m a fan of Phillip’s and so it was a privilege to share air-time with him.
      I’m a playwright, but I have to admit to ZERO experience with screenwriting, sadly. I think in words rather than pictures, much as I love the movies. It would be deceptive of me to allow you to give me a book if you were under the impression I have any skills in that area. I think it sounds an amazing story, though, and will enquire at my library to see if they stock it. It might make them get a copy in if they don’t.
      Thank you for your generosity.

    • Hi Neil,
      It is not published in the UK yet, but there are some places online where it is available. They are in the tab under HOW TO BUY THE BOOK. If none of them work in the UK, then I’m sorry, but I guess it isn’t possible yet. Thanks for your compliment re Neighbours, and yes…once Spain has yo, it never lets go, does it?

  7. Ailsa, I’ve just written against another of your blog entries about my walk in Japan. I wrote up my effort “Angels of the Way” – I see you were there (in print at least) before me!

  8. Hi Ailsa,

    Thank you for your book. My husband and I have just returned from walking the Camino Mozarabe from Granada to Merida which we loved despite the intense heat that we encountered. We have read Sinning Across Spain since our return as we weren’t able to read it before leaving for the walk. Reading it on our return has added another dimension to our reflection of our experience of the Camino. Our hostess in Moclin showed us your card from when you stayed there. She was particularly excited about the Aboriginal painting sticker that you had put on your card. In our stumbling Spanish we tried to explain that you had written a book about the camino but unfortunately we couldn’t quite make ourselves understood. Thanks again for your honest and reflective book. Pauline Peel

    • Dear Pauline,
      Thank you so very much for taking the time and trouble to find me and give me feedback. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book, and even more delighted to know that my little offering remains in Moclin. What a great town that was – and to get there after that climb on the first day was heaven. Are you thinking you might do some more walking? Maybe the stretch from Merida to Salamanca…or beyond?

  9. Thanks for your response Ailsa. We are considering the next walk – hopefully it won’t be as long between walks as between this one and the part of the northern camino that we walked in 2001 just after September 11 which made it a very special walk. We are 60 so I reckon we need to not wait too long. Your Italian walking friends are an inspiration in this respect. We’re thinking that perhaps we will dedicate our next trip solely to walking and perhaps walk from Seville to Santiago or maybe the Portugese way. Keep up your good work and I hope that your theatrical ventures go well.

  10. Hi Ailsa – I am 2/3 of the way through your book – almost at Tabara. Your fantastic style of writing has encouraged me to (1) start the Spanish lessons; & (2) start the walking in order to leave Granada in early May 2013. Thanks so much. (ps another sale via Dymocks)

    • Dear Michael,
      THANK YOU! I am so thrilled that it is spurring you on.
      Do you know, when I read your words, I could literally smell and taste Tabara. Sometimes the names are just memories, but on certain days, when they are evoked, the temperature and specifics are so present. I remember that town vividly – even the dream I was having when I woke. Amazing. I haven’t thought of that for months and months.
      SO thank you. You have given me back a bit of the walk today.
      I hope the book can give you continuing pleasure and inspiration. Happy Spanish. Happyy walking. Happy reading.
      Buen camino, peregrino.

  11. hi ailsa you wont remember me but we went to school together heard all about your book. Purchased it yesterday and am looking forward to getting stuck into it.

    • HI Susan,
      Thanks so much for being interested enough to buy a copy. Where were we at school? How old were we? Forgive my dopey memory. It really is dreadful. Would love to have it tweaked though!

    • Aha! Got you!
      See I do remember.
      All my school annuals have gone walkabout – or at least I went walkabout – but I can picture you, I’m sure.
      I’ll be in Perth at the Writers Festival at the end of February. Maybe we will renew acquaintance – although if you read the book, you will be at an unfair advantage cos you will know rather too much about me!
      Thanks again.

  12. lol i would love to come but unfortunately i have an autistic son which restricts me in going out ill just enjoy reading the book

    • That is challenging for both of you, I’m sure. I hope the book can take you on some journeys as you read. Vicarious travel has often substituted for me when circumstances have kept me at home! Do stay in touch. I’m so touched that you were interested.

  13. Hi Ailsa
    Just a quick note to let you know I’ve just finished reading your Sinning Across Spain. I absolutely loved every moment of your journey. Wow! So many wise, generous, caring and spiritual people you met along the way (except for the German in khaki!). Your beautifully descriptive writing took me to where you were. Between reading your book and watching many a Dora dvd with my 3 yr old grand daughter, I’ve picked up on quite a bit of Spanish. Lol! Many congratulations on a stunning book and an inspirational and courageous pilgrimage. PS Our family fell in love with the movie ‘The Way’ and has inspired my brother so much so that he leaves at the end of next month to tackle Camino Frances.
    Thankyou Ailsa

    • Dear Kathy,
      What a beautiful, generous letter! Thanks so much. You have made my day. I’m really touched that you would seek me out to tell me. I too loved The Way, and felt it had a truly lovely heart.
      Hope your brother loves every step along the Frances.
      Buen camino and gracias, pilgrim.

  14. Hola Ailsa,
    Just finished reading (absorbing!) your book…wonderful. ¡Muchas gracias!
    My “compañera” is from Galicia and I love the way you describe it. Very spiritual indeed!
    Sometimes I wonder about those routes coming from the south, i.e., La Plata, Mozárabe, etc. Did you find evidences during your research of pilgrims traveling from southern Spain to Santiago during the Middle Ages? Just the fact Spain was occupied by muslims makes me wonder how christians could manage through.
    ¡Muchas gracias también por recomendarme la mochila Aarn! I will be testing one next month.
    Buen camino,

    • Hi Carlos,
      Thanks so much for your response. Yes, Galicia is magical. It feels very akin to Ireland, but definitely its own creature! And somehow it IS the reward for the walking.
      The southern routes…
      No I didn’t look for evidence. I took it on faith, mostly, although the Via de la Plata certainly was there as a road for a very very long time. Roman markers dot its entire length. But to say that the south was “occupied” by Muslims is not entirely true, I think. The Christians certainly gained the upper hand, and in fact many of the pilgrim stories tell of being protected by the Christian knights. My sadness was the loss of an inter-faith culture that existed there. So sad.
      Buen camino for your journey. How I wish I was walking a little way with you.
      Gracias otra vez.

    • Carlos!
      I have just read this comment and feel so very embarrassed not to have responded earlier. I don’t know why I missed it. But thank you. Gracias, companero! Gracias. I hope the Aarn is your new best friend and that you are walking comfortably together like seasoned pilgrims. My apologies and gratitude. Been been been camino, peregrino.
      Ailsa x

  15. Hi Ailsa, A friend of ours from Australia also did the walk across Spain. She read your book and then gave it to our church. We have a table where we sell books to raise a bit of money. Her father goes to our church here in Canada and she visits him from Australia. She told us about her journey and it wasn’t until I read your book that I got the whole picture. I couldn’t wait to read each chapter to see where you would walk to and to meet the people you met along the way. Thank you for the journey.

    • Dear Judy, Looking at my comments, I think I may not have posted a response to this lovely note from you. I am so very very sorry. Somehow I seem to have missed sending. I hope you are relishing your Canadian summer, and perhaps even walking a few trails. May they all rise to meet you, and may sunshine fall on your shoulders. Thanks for your kindness in seeking me out. Been camino. Ailsa

  16. Hi Alisa
    Thank you so much for walking, writing and publishing your book, I felt privileged to share your journey. I first heard you on an interview, probably Radio National, I still remember I was actually walking at the time, listening to the podcast. Trouble with doing that is I don’t take notes. So, eventually, I discovered your book on the sale table at Dymocks – sorry about that. There are so many sticky flags marking favourite passages, it’s as bad as my poetry books. I’m now raving about it to friends and family and will probably have to go back and buy some full price copies as presents. Keep up the good work. Meredith

    • Dear Meredith,
      Thank you so very much for picking up my book, for staying the course, and for writing to me. It means so much. It is now three years since publication, and it is always such a surprise and a joy to hear that it is still out there walking, finding people with whom to have a conversation. From a poetry-lover like you, it means a great deal that it spoke to you. Thanks so much for your kind words – and your support in buying it. Discounted or no! Been camino. Ailsa x

  17. Hello Ailsa,

    The local librarian just visited our Silkbody shop which is just across the road from the library so not so much of a pilgrimage. She has been reading of your adventure in preparation for making the journey herself later in 2016.
    She was particularly excited to find that you had in your Swag list included Silkbody T- Shirts. Being an avid walker tramper and cyclist she is a great advocate of our clothing and accessories. Of course we were thrilled to see that you have been wearing Silkbody which has obviously been working well for you.
    We would be keen to hear more of your experience with Silkbody as the in field experience that you have had is invaluable to us.

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