It could be noted that the notion of thousands of pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages is a myth. At the time such a journey would last a few months, and that is in the summer, as travelling during the winter was unpractical. Most of the people of that time were peasants, and one wouldn't leave his fields unnattended for such a period of time ; indeed, in those feodal times, the lord of the place would often not allow you to leave for so long.
Indeed, though the grave of the apostle Saint James is supposed to be in Compostela, his relics could be found all over Western Europe ; most of them obviously false (else James would have had a few heads, five hands and other strange features), yet each of the places claiming to hold a part of the body of the apostle was the center of a more local pilgrimage. Thus, many people were pilgrims of St James even in the Middle Ages, and historians misinterpreted their tracks as those of people all going to Santiage de Compostela.
However, after the beginning of the Renaissance, the roads got safer and easier to travel, and indeed many pilgrims began to follow the various roads to Santiago de Compostela, usually crossing the Pyrenees, and bringing back a Cockle Shell as the symbol of their travels.
Although the Road was almost forgotten at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, it is now in fashion again, and it is one of the most popular hikes in Europe. Tens of thousand of people walk along at least a part of it yearly, some of them doing it for the spiritual reward of being a pilgrim, while others only do it because it is a nice path within very nice landscapes ; the high numbers of people following it also implies that one will easily meet people to travel with.