Croagh Patrick is a place of ancient history, Patrick's sacred mountain, is a rich vein of archaeological heritage. It is situated five miles from the picturesque town of Westport and the mountain's conical shape soars majestically above the surrounding countryside. 


Magnificent views of Clew Bay and the surrounding south Mayo countryside are to be had from all stages of the ascent of the mountain. Those that follow the steps of Patrick meet people from far and near. Teach na Miasa, The Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre, is situated in Murrisk on the Pilgrim's path at the base of Croagh Patrick mountain and opposite the National Famine Monument.

The tradition of pilgrimage to this holy mountain stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption. Croagh Patrick is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and the custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation. The Black Bell of Saint Patrick was a highly venerated relic on Croagh Patrick for many years. On 'Reek Sunday', the last Sunday in July, over 25,000 pilgrims visit the Reek. Individuals and groups come from all over the world and include pilgrims, hill climbers, historians, archaeologists and nature lovers.

The first stop on the pilgrimage is Saint Patrick's statue erected in 1928 by Reverend Father Patterson with money he collected in America towards the rebuilding of Saint Mary's Church in Westport. Although it is not one of the three traditional stations of the Reek, it has become a place of prayer for those embarking on the pilgrimage and serves as an ideal substitution for those who are unable to make the complete climb.

It 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; to the west is the mountain Ben Goram.

Croagh Patrick derives its name from the Irish Cruach Phádraig "(St) Patrick's stack", and is known locally as the Reek, a Hiberno-English word for a "rick" or "stack". In pagan times it was known as Cruachán Aigle, being mentioned by that name in sources such as Cath Maige Tuired, Buile Shuibhne, The Metrical Dindshenchas and the Annals of Ulster entry for the year 1113. Cruachán is simply a diminutive of cruach "stack", but it is not certain what Aigle means. It is either from the Latin loan aquila "eagle" or a person's name.In addition to its literal meaning, cruach in the pagan name may also have some connection with Crom Cruach.

A seam of gold was discovered in the mountain in the 1980s: overall grades of 14 grams (0.5 oz) of gold per tonne in at least 12 quartz veins, which could produce 770,000 short tons of ore. Mayo County Council elected not to allow mining, deciding that the gold was "fine where it was".

Known in Irish Celtic as Cruach Phádraig and colloquially as "the Reek," Mt. Croagh Patrick has been a sacred site since ancient times. Before the arrival of Christianity, the Celtic people regarded the mountain as the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh. The mountain was the focus of the harvest festival of Lughnasa, traditionally held around August 1. The sacred mountain was especially important for women, who would sleep on the summit during Lughnasa to encourage fertility. Neolithic art can still be seen on a rock outcropping known as "St. Patrick's Chair" along the path to the top, and a Celtic hill fort was recently uncovered at the base of the mountain.

According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. The site quickly became an important place of Christian pilgrimage. A stone oratory dating to between 430 and 890 AD was recently discovered on the summit. Pilgrimage Mt. Croagh Patrick is the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in Ireland. Nearly one million visitors, most of them pilgrims, climb to the top every year. Almost 30,000 pilgrims make the trek on the last Sunday in July, known as "Reek Sunday." For most Catholics who visit Mt. Croagh Patrick, especially on Reek Sunday, the pilgrimage to the top of the sacred mountain is an act of penance. Accordingly, some untake the journey barefoot or even on their knees. The summit has a small chapel where Mass is celebrated.

There are three pilgrimage stations on the way to the summit of Croagh Patrick, each of which has a sign with instructions for the proper rituals and prayers. The stations are as follows:

  • First Station (Leacht Benáin): Base of the Mountain 1. Walk 7 times around the mound of stones while saying: 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys, 1 Creed
  • Second Station: The Summit 1. Kneel and say: 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys, 1 Creed 2. Pray near the chapel for the Pope's intentions. 3. Walk 15 times around the chapel while saying: 15 Our Fathers, 15 Hail Marys 4. Walk 7 times around Leaba Phádraig (Patrick's Bed) saying: 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys, 1 Creed
  • Third Station: Roilig Mhuire 1. Walk 7 times around each mound of stones saying: 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys, 1 Creed 2. Walk 7 times around the whole enclosure of Roilig Mhuire praying.

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