When walking the Camino Santiago, you don't always have to follow the pack.
The original "Camino" was the road and some walking trails. Over time, it has been re-routed to either bypass or go through specific villages. So by going "off" the Camino, you're really not committing any big sin. There are places where sometimes I wonder if the folks making the trail weren't laughing while rubbing their hands together and gleefully thinking of ways to make the pilgrim suffer! lol! In addition, many (most?) villages in Spain were built up on fortified hills, so it seems you are always climbing a hill at the end of the day when you're exhausted.
Here are a few of my favorite shortcuts. Please be sure to ALWAYS WALK FACING TRAFFIC when walking the road. :
Ciraqui: If you've never seen Ciraqui, then by all means, follow the Camino route. However, if this is a repeat Camino, or if you aren't up to climbing that hill, you can go around. Right before Ciraqui, you will begin seeing signs pointing off to the right for a restaurant. Take that trail. When you hit the main road, turn left and walk along the road. Soon you will see pilgrims coming down the other side of the big hill and crossing over a bridge above you. Keep to the road. You will eventually approach Lorca and join up with the others. But caution, here is another shortcut...
Lorca: As you approach Lorca, you will be walking on the N0111. The trail will turn off and begin down a very steep path DOWN DOWN DOWN. Ignore it. Stay on the road to Lorca. It's not busy. Not much traffic at all. Because when the Camino goes DOWN, it must then go UP, and those pilgrims are going to then be climbing UP a steep hill to Lorca, while you are taking the gentler path along the road.
Skipping Monjardin. There is an alternative route that takes you to the left of the main Camino. You can grab it after Irache. You will go under a concrete wash and on to Luquin, where shortly after, you will again join the Camino. Both routes are nice. I've done both. The only benefit I see to taking the alternative is missing the climb.
Leon to Virgen del Camino: This is an ugly stretch through the city and you can avoid it and get a head start by grabbing a bus to Virgen del Camino.I f you have a Brierley or other guide with a map of Leon in it, find the long straight street that leads to the Cathedral called Avenida Oroño. After it crosses the river, it becomes Avenida Palencia. When you are in Leon, you will know exactly what long straight street this is. Anyway, walk straight up that street and over the river. You will come to a dead end. The Renfe (train station) will be to your right and the bus depot to your left. Turn RIGHT at the dead end and go to the nearest bus stop. People will be standing there most likely, for their morning commute. When the bus stops, ask if it goes to Virgen del Camino (it does) and jump on. It's very inexpensive, less than a Euro last time I rode. Ride this bus through the ugly parts of the city and get off in Virgen del Camino, where you can have breakfast, then begin walking. SUGGESTION: Watch for San Froilan Church on the right. You can't miss it. It has these weird statues on the outside. See photo. When you reach that church, the Camino splits. Cross the street and take the LEFT way that goes to Vilar do Mazarife. The other way walks along the highway and isn't as nice.
Acebo to Molinaseca. This trail can be washed out and rough. If your feet or muscles are in bad shape, consider just walking the road.
Molinaseca to Ponferrada. This is another stretch that people think is not so great, and you can simply grab a morning bus on the other side of the village that will deposit you in Ponferrada 5 minutes later. Start walking again there.
There are others. As I think of them, I'll add them. It's worth making notes in your map book so if you are hurt or unable to make the hills, you can take the shortcuts.