Murrisk – at the foot of Croagh Patrick
Overlooking Clew Bay at the bottom of Croagh Patrick, Murrisk village has scenic views in all directions and a rich history, particularly as the starting point of the pilgrimage up the Reek, as Croagh Patrick is also known.
The origin of the name ‘Murrisk’ (Muraisc in Irish) is uncertain, but it is generally agreed that it comes from either ‘Muir Riasc.’ marsh by the sea, or ‘Muir Iasc’ – the sea monster worshipped in pre-Christian times.
About 9.5km (6 miles) west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road (R335), Murrisk has two pubs, one at either end of the village, both of which serve food.
In the mid-15th century, the Augustinian Friars founded Murrisk Abbey, which replaced the Tóchar Phádraig as the preferred starting point for pilgrimages up Croagh Patrick. The friars were driven out in the late 16th century during the Reformation.
As with most buildings of this age around Clew Bay, the abbey has connections with legendary pirate queen, Granuaile. A chalice, now in Tuam, bears the inscription:
‘Pray for the souls of Theobald, Lord Viscount Mayo and his wife Meave ní Cnochoure who had me made for the monastery of Murrisk in the year of our Lord 1635.’
The abbey is down a short path just east of and across the road from the Croagh Patrick carpark, at the western end of Murrisk.
The L-shaped ruin of the abbey includes the long and narrow church, the sacristy and the chapter room with overhead dormitory. The outside of the east window features carvings of human heads, and there are ogee-headed ande trefoil-headed windows, as well. The only remnant of the belfry tower is a ribbed vault.
The cemetery on the abbey grounds is still in use by the local community.
Overlooking Clew Bay, to the west of Murrisk Abbey and across the road from the Croagh Patrick carpark, is the National Famine Memorial, which commemorates the Great Famine of the 1840s. John Behan’s sculpture is a bronze ship, with skeletal figures symbolising the many emigrants from the Irish famine who died in the appalling conditions aboard the “coffin ships” on which they left Ireland.
Murrisk on the map
Pic: slideshow bob/Creative Commons; Night of the Big Wind/Creative Commons