Hiking Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick is located in County Mayo, near the town of Westport. From here you can see Clew Bay in its entirety. It is home to an 11th century monastery and is one of the first religious sites in Ireland. Croagh Patrick’s worship history dates as far back as three thousand BC and it is thought to be the holiest mountain in Ireland. St. Patrick is said to have done forty days and nights of Lenten penance and fasting on this mountain. It is told in folklore that it is on Croagh Patrick that he also expelled the snakes forever from Ireland!
Croagh Patrick is one of the topmost mountain peaks in the west of the country and its tapered shape rises impressively high above all sides of the countryside. From all sides of the mountain, there are spectacular scenes of Clew Bay and the encircling south Mayo landscape.
There are a variety of hiking and walking companies that will bring you on a walking or hiking tour of your choice. These vary from 3-4 hour hikes to one day tours or eight day tours around the Mayo and Connemara area. Generally the walks and hikes of Croagh Patrick are approximately eight miles long and about 1750 feet of an uphill climb although this will vary from company to company. There are walks suitable for all kinds of walkers from the novice to the very experienced and many of the tours are guided. You can hike Croagh Patrick alone, in a guided tour group or of course with a pilgrimage group.
Normally the hikes will start at the base of the mountain, taking the trail of the pilgrimage upwards to the top, beginning at the St Patrick Statue. The hike can be quite steep at times and there is some loose rock and scree along part of the track. The climb does have two stages, the first taking you to a moss covered foothill with a narrow stream visible and the second part will take you up further along a gravel covered track. Once you reach the summit, you will find a chapel there to rest, perhaps pray or just enjoy the stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean, before you begin the arduous trek back down!
You will find walking festivals in Mayo to Croagh Patrick and its surrounds going on throughout the year. In Easter of this year, there is a full weekend of walking tours taking place in Westport. On Friday 22nd March this year, there is also a three day festival walking the Croagh Patrick heritage trail. There will be walks for all levels of walkers and there will also be shorter walks that are suitable for families.
If you would like to join a pilgrimage tour, the last Sunday in July each year – also known as “Reek Sunday” – sees thousands of national and international visitors arrive at Croagh Patrick and attempt the ascent to the summit. Some pilgrims even attempt this hike in bare feet, considering it as an act of penance! There are masses held in the outdoors throughout the day and confessions take place in St Patricks Chapel. Two other Pilgrimage days occur on the final Friday in July, also called “Garland Friday” and there is also the 15th of August pilgrimage which is very popular.
So put your hiking gear on and join in the exploration of the striking and the legendary Croagh Patrick landscape!
Lianne Murphy is an online marketer for Irish Car Rentals, an Irish website for booking car rental with nationwide locations in Ireland including Galway City Car Rental