Croag Patrick | Westport | County Mayo | Ireland Website: Croag Patrick
Know Before You Go: This very popular (and sometimes crowded) hike treks 2500 up very steep stairs and a scree field to the summit. The trail is very rocky so good hiking shoes are suggested; it’s also extremely windy at the top - snug, wind-resistant clothing is recommended. You also may consider taking more layers than you think you will need; the wind turned quite cool in an instant on our way up the mountain. The rocks in the scree field give way under your feet at times, so be sure to take it slow and stay away from the edge. There are bathrooms at the halfway point with running water, so it’s possible to hike to the top and back down without a pack if you wear your rain gear and your insulating layer. Length: 5 miles. Time: 3 hours. Terrain: Rocky, scree, some crushed aggregate. Difficulty: Very hard. Dog-friendly: The signs say no dogs, but we saw dogs on this hike. Kid-friendly: Our 14-year-old son hiked this with ease, but smaller legs may struggle. The stairs and the scree trail do not have hand rails, so I personally would think twice before taking kids smaller than 12 up this trail.
Croag Patrick is the 4th highest mountain in Ireland and is often called “Ireland’s Holiest Mountain”. It’s breathtaking because of the views, and because of the steep climb! The mountain is named after St. Patrick because he’s believed to have fasted for 41 days here in 441 A.D. Christians have been making the pilgrimage to the top for years in order to view St. Patrick’s “bed” and the tiny church constructed a few years ago in honor of the saint. Once a year on the last Sunday of July, there is a group hike to the top that thousands of people participate in. The pilgrimage is said to have occurred every year without miss for 5,000 years to celebrate the beginning of harvest season.
We parked in the parking lot at the visitor center near Murrisk. To the left of the snack shack lies the trailhead. Around halfway up, there are bathrooms with running water, so you can fill your water bottle or get a quick drink and use the facilities if needed. Normally, I suggest carrying water, but the wind is so strong on this climb that if you can avoid taking a pack by using the water stop and wearing your layers, I would.
This was our most challenging hike in Ireland. It treks up 2500 feet using very steep stairs and a scree field close to the summit. The rocks give way under your feet at times in the scree field, so take it slow and stay away from the edge as there are no hand rails. The wind actually pulled me from side to side near the summit, so I was glad I had decided not to take a pack.
The sacredness of the site and the views at the top make this hard hike well worth the reward.