Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s pilgrimage mountain
8km (5 miles) west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road (R335), Croagh Patrick (pronounced Croke Patrick) stands at 764m (2,507ft) and is the third highest peak in Mayo, after Mweelrea and Nephin. Best known for its association with Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, who is said to have fasted for 40 days at the summit in 441AD, Croagh Patrick has been a pilgrimage destination since pre-Christian times.
Long before Saint Patrick’s arrival, the mountain was known by its ancient name of Cruchán Aigli, deriving from Cruach as a variant of ‘rick’ or ‘reek’, a reference to its distinctive conical shape. Hence, the mountain common local name, The Reek, spans the millennia. It was not until the 10th century that it became known for its link to Saint Patrick, taking the name Cruach Phádraig, and subsequently the anglicised version, Croagh Patrick.
The most popular route to the summit begins at the west end of Murrisk on the Louisburgh Road (R335) at the signposted carpark. The route is 7km (4.3 miles) long, round-trip; bring sturdy boots, rain-gear and layers, as the temperature can be much lower at the top, and the wind can be quite strong.
The Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre includes a coffee shop/self-service restaurant, as well as a craft shop. Hot showers, secure lockers and pay and display parking are also available. Guided tours to the Statue are available from the Centre during peak season with advance notice.
The Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage – Reek Sunday and Garland Friday
Each year, the Reek attracts about 1 million pilgrims and hillwalkers. On Reek Sunday (or more properly Garland Sunday), the last Sunday in July, around 25,000 pilgrims climb the holy mountain, many in their bare feet.
Traditionally, people from Westport make the pilgrimage two days before, on Garland Friday.
At the top, there is a chapel that was built in 1905 by local men who brought all materials up the side of the mountain using donkeys. Mass is celebrated on Reek Sunday.
Safety & Equipment
The west of Ireland offers some of the best mountain walks in Europe. A Mountain day in Mayo is unlike any other because of the unique blend of majestic old hills, splendid isolation, panoramic views of the ocean, lakes, rivers and sky all coming together to form a unique unspoiled environment. There are almost no tracks here so those who would venture forth need to follow some simple rules. If you do then you are certain to have an unforgettable mountain day.
Do not undertake a walk which is beyond your level of competence. If you are fit enough but lack map reading and navigational experience then the safest and most enjoyable thing to do is to use the services of a local experienced guide.
Mountain weather in the west of Ireland can change from bright sunshine to mist and rain in the course of a day, so be prepared, experienced and competent enough to finish your walk in poor visibility and perhaps darkness. This applies particularly if you are doing a long high level walk.
Please leave details of your intended route and expected time of return with someone and do let them know when you have returned. Plan your route, giving careful consideration to distance, height gain, day light hours available, nature of terrain, fitness of walkers, escape routes and weather forecast.
It is wise to pack for all four seasons when you venture onto the western mountains. Our Atlantic weathers can change frequently in the course of a day. Temperatures can vary by as much as 7degrees between sea level and summit. It is also wise to assume that an emergency, either yours or someone else’s, may necessitate you spending a night out, so be prepared.
Whether you are walking with or without the services of a guide, your equipment should include;
- Walking Boots
- Waterproof jacket and leggings
- A few Layers which you can put on or take off as required, wool nylon and fleece are recommended. Not Cotton.
- Hats and Gloves. Spare Gloves are a good idea.
- Survival Bag.
- Food and Fluid, plus some to spare.
- Torch and spare battery.
- Mobile Phone, but remember there may not be coverage so don’t depend on it.
- First Aid kit
- Specialised Gear for winter conditions
If things do go wrong which hopefully they won’t, Stay Put, Stay Calm, Take Time, Make a Plan, Stay Warm. If you need help and you have phone coverage then phone 999 or 112 and request Mountain Rescue. If this is not possible then send preferably two people for help with details of your location (Six figure grid Reference).
Finally don’t be put off by this page. Accidents are a rare event in these mountains. With common sense and a little planning you will have a great mayo mountain day.
Information provided by www.mayomountainrescue.ie
Reek Sunday 2010 – The Mayo News
Croagh Patrick on the map