Croagh Patrick is a mountain of legend in Ireland. High place of pilgrimage for the practising Irish, the mountain of Croagh Patrick would have been the place where Saint Patrick would have fasted during 40 days then built a church in 441. This story, dear to the Irish, makes it a symbolic place, which brings Ireland back to its Christian roots.
It was thus in 441 that Saint Patrick, then in charge of evangelizing Ireland, proceeded to climb the mountain then known as the “Cruachan Aigil”. 764 metres high, the mountain had and still has a rather peculiar shape that almost resembles a volcano.
This dark form, tended to frighten the population who lived a little further down the valley. When the saint decided to ascend, all the inhabitants of the surrounding villages considered Saint Patrick as a true figure of bravery, and therefore had a boundless admiration for the Saint.
After reaching the summit, St. Patrick would have started a 40-day fast, and would have built a small church during this period. The aim of these actions would have been to evangelize Ireland, attracting the attention and admiration of the Irish.
The legend also tells, that Saint Patrick would have driven all the snakes of Ireland there, by throwing a bell from the top of the mountain, towards the precipice of Lugnanarrib. It is said that the bell, in its fall, would have drawn the valley below. This heroic act would thus have made it possible to chase away homesickness and to convert the population to Christianity.
The history of St. Patrick’s Day on this mountain has naturally contributed to making Croagh Patrick a sacred mountain, where many pilgrims go every year to honour the Saint.
On the last Sunday in July each year, more than 40,000 Irish people come to worship and attend Mass in a small chapel built more recently in 1905.
No need to imagine how impressive the crowds gathered on the sides of this mountain are! This pilgrimage usually lasts 2 days, due to the length of the route taken by the pilgrims: they make the “grand tour” (called Tochar Phadraig in Irish) and reach the summit after more than 40 km of walking!
If you decide to explore this imposing mountain further, outside of the pilgrimage period, it is possible to start from Murrisk, close to Westport. This route is mainly used by tourists, but some sections are quite steep and require a good physical condition. We do not recommend this route to children, who will find the difference in altitude far too great.
Make sure you bring a good backpack, water, a sweater and a windbreaker: the changing weather in Ireland could surprise you on the way up, with a few ripples or a few gusts of cool wind!
In any case, you should know that your efforts will be rewarded at the top of Croagh Patrick with a breathtaking view of Clew Bay, Connemara and Achill Island. Don’t hesitate to visit the small chapel, a charming building that is a symbol of the evangelisation of Ireland.