The Bottom Line
- Ireland's holy mountain and a center of pilgrimage.
- Challenging climb to the top.
- Fabulous views of Clew Bay.
- Climb can be frustrating as well as exhausting.
- Scree-covered, flat-topped hill near Clew Bay, 2,510 feet high.
- Ireland's holy mountain since Patrick's 40-day-fast on the summit in 441.
- Main pilgrimage day is Garland or Reek Sunday (last Sunday in July), best avoided by tourists.
Guide Review - Croagh Patrick (Murrisk, County Mayo)
Starting at Campbell's Pub in Murrisk (County Mayo), the trail up the hill seems to be easy at first. As you get higher you will notice changes though. What was a path becomes an area of scree, quartz-like gravel that conspires against you finding a decent foothold. Sometimes two steps up are followed by a (faster) slide three steps down. And you will admire the wisdom of those fellow climbers who brought or hired a stout walking stick.
You might, however, doubt the wisdom of attempting this climb barefooted. Occasional drops of blood on the scree a par for the course here, even though the Catholic Church discourages this particular expression of devotion. Other less painful expressions are positively encouraged, signs will inform you about the correct prayers and devotions to guarantee the success of your pilgrimage. After all most people climb this 2,510 feet high mountain as a pilgrimage, not as an exercise in fitness.
Ever since Patrick himself fasted for 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain, securing the Lord's favor for the Irish, stations, chapels and churches have been erected next to the trail. At least two hours of exhausting walking, scrambling and climbing are required to reach the surprisingly flat top. Here mass can be celebrated. Or you can simply take a breather. Amenities are very basic, it may be best to bring your own provisions at any time.
Should you bother at all? Unless you are climbing Croagh Patrick as a pilgrimage, the view of Clew Bay definitely is a reward in itself. Whether it is worth the arduous climb is another question. Not being the most enthusiastic hillwalker and/or climber I am firmly sitting on the fence here.
Just a final note - the way down requires care, do slow down and never attempt to run on the scree!