Croagh Patrick near Newport Mayo
Arguably Ireland's most well-known mountain, Croagh Patrick is located approx. 5 miles from Westport, which is 10 minutes from Newport in County Mayo. Also considered the holiest mountain in Ireland, this majestic peak, also known locally as the 'Reek' stands 750 metres or 2,500 feet tall and dominates the Mayo landscape.
- Distance from hotel:21km (25mins drive)
Croagh Patrick is the third highest mountain in County Mayo after Mweelrea and Nephin. It forms the southern part of a U-shaped valley created by a glacier flowing into Clew Bay in the last Ice Age. Croagh Patrick is part of a longer east-west ridge; the westernmost peak is called Ben Gorm.
The mountain's name originates from Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. It was made famous by him as it was on the summit of this mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days and forty nights in 441 AD. This custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation.
Each year, close to one million people climb the holy mountain for many different reason;
- Pilgrimage - for mass or to do penance
- Adventure races
- Charity climbs
- Or simply to enjoy the spectacular view at the top!
Since ancient times pilgrims have climbed the mountain barefoot, as an act of penance, a practice that still continues today. Some pilgrims carry out 'rounding rituals', in which they pray while walking sunwise around features on the mountain. In medieval times, pilgrims carried stones as an act of penance, or to represent a prayer intention. The stones were carried to the cairn on top of the mountain, or to the Cairn on the "saddle" of the mountain, which marks the unofficial "half-way" point at the base of the summit. This practice of carrying stones or rocks on a pilgrimage, to add to a cairn, was thought to bring the pilgrims good luck and can be seen in many ancient pilgrimage paths. Some claim that the pilgrimage pre-dates Christianity and was originally a ritual associated with the festival of Lughnasadh.
Reek Sunday or Garland Sunday is an annual day of pilgrimage in Ireland. On the last Sunday in July, pilgrims climb Ireland's holiest mountain, Croagh Patrick in County Mayo. It is held in honour of Saint Patrick who, in the year 441, spent 40 days fasting on the mountain. Masses are held in a small chapel at the summit. It had been claimed that the sheer volume of visitors has led to erosion and has made the mountain more dangerous for climbers.
Croagh Patrick, 7 km from the picturesque town of Westport, is a conical shape that soars majestically above the surrounding countryside. It’s a tough hike up the side of the tower of uneven rocks and loose scree. The reward is at the summit when you catch your breath and look back to see the incredible panoramic views of the hundreds of tiny drumlin islands in Clew Bay - considered one of the best views along the Wild Atlantic Way. The hike will take about three or four hours to get up and back down, a 14km round trip.
To complete this climb, you don’t need to know how to navigate; just follow the people. Ironically many consider this the only downfall of this climb - during the high season it’s very busy!