Here’s our bluffer’s guide to getting to the peak of the Reek, one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.
How long will it take?
Well now, that all depends. You could run up and down the mountain at top speed, but – unless you’re testing your limits in a local adventure festival like the Westport Sea2Summit – where’s the fun in that? To take in all the stunning views at the summit of Croagh Patrick and get a real feel for the majesty of the mountain, give yourself at least two hours to get the top, and around an hour-and-a-half to come back down. Add a little bit longer if you’re a little out of shape. And add additional time for however long you want to spend at the top, gazing across beautiful Clew Bay and generally feeling awestruck. Make sure to tell someone you’re planning to climb the mountain too, so they know when to expect you back and can raise an alarm should you, heaven forbid, go missing.
What should I wear?
Good walking boots are essential – study, with a good grip that can handle loose stone underfoot. For clothing, it’s best to wear layers that you can take on and off depending on the temperature – remember, it can be chillier at the top than you might think. Also, this is Ireland, and the weather can change in the blink of an eye, so have proper rain gear handy too. On a hot summer’s day (yes, they do happen!), be sure to wear a hat and bring sunscreen. Check the weather forecast before setting out, and don’t attempt the mountain if bad weather is closing in.
What should I not wear?
Yes, we really do have to say this: Don’t wear flip flops or high heels! This might be a popular mountain that young and old climb every year, but the terrain is challenging, especially during the last section (‘the cone’), and it does need to be respected. No one wants a twisted ankle, or worse. Also, if you wear sandals, expect to be stopping every five minutes to pick out pebbles. You’ll only annoy yourself and your walking buddies, and probably turn the air blue with curses. And we can’t have that on our holy mountain!
Here are a few basic facts:
Should I care about the mountain’s history? Um, yes… This is a holy mountain that is very dear to many faithful. As with other sacred sites around the world – from Uluru to Mount Sinai – it is respectful to at least have an inkling of its place in our local and national heritage.
Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick, is said to have spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain in 441 AD, and the name ‘Croagh Patrick’ comes from the Irish ‘Cruach Phádraig’
meaning ‘Patrick’s Stack’.
Before St Patrick brought Christianity to these shores, Croagh Patrick was called Cruachán Aigle, meaning Eagle Mountain or Mount Eagle, and pagans worshipped here as far back as 3,000 BC, especially at Lughnasa (the start of the harvest season).
Every year, thousands of Christians climb the holy mountain on the last Sunday in July, which is an annual pilgrimage day in Ireland known as Reek Sunday.
The chapel that sits on Croagh Patrick’s summit was built in 1905 in a herculean effort by 12 local men, using local stone and cement that was hauled up the mountain’s steep sides by donkey.
Is there anywhere to eat?
You might work up a serious hunger after your Croagh Patrick climb, but (mercifully) you won’t find any fast-food joints on these slopes. It’s pure nature all the way. To keep the belly rumbles to a minimum, bring snacks or a packed lunch, and have a good breakfast wherever you’re staying. All our hotels and guesthouses do slap-up Irish breakfasts, with all the trimmings. There’s a lovely café at the bottom of the Reek, the Murrisk Community Café, where you can get some eats – it’s also a great meeting point for starting your hike. Close by, you’ll find delicious grub in Campbell’s just beside the Croagh Patrick Carpark and the Tavern Bar & Restaurant in Murrisk village. Check on their social media for Covid-19 opening restrictions first!
What should I bring?
This might sound obvious, but sure we’ll say it anyway – bring plenty of water! You’ll work up a good thirst. Guaranteed. Hiking boots are advised, the ground is very rough so ankle support is key, climbing in trainers is possible but we don’t recommend it. Good energy-rich snacks like peanuts, almonds and bananas are also a great idea. Sunscreen on warm days, and rain gear just in case. A mobile phone, should you need to call the emergency services (999/112). And for selfies, obvs. A rucksack to carry all these bits and bobs.
Do I really need a stick?
You might think you don’t need a climbing stick, but take it from us, you’ll be very glad of one. There are steep parts on the way up, and the stick is great for taking some of the strain. The terrain is often quite loose too, so anything that can help you keep your balance is a good idea, especially on the way down. If you don’t have your own stick, you can rent one in the car park.
Is it okay to brag about climbing Croagh Patrick?
Absolutely. You’ve just been to the top of one of the world’s most famous mountains, and you’ve had a birds’ eye view of one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. Sure you couldn’t keep that to yourself!