Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
Croagh Patrick (nicknamed The Reek) located 8 km (5 miles) from Westport in Mayo is a 764 metres tall mountain, which is has become an important pilgrimage site. On the last Sunday of July every year (“Reek Sunday”), the mountain sees 15,000 pilgrims climb to the top. Saint Patrick is said to have fasted on the summit of the great mountain for forty days in the 5th century. Patrick is reputed to have built a church on the summit of Croagh Patrick, however the church that now stands there was built in 1905. The legend has it that at the end of Patrick’s 40 day pilgrimage he threw a silver bell from the mountain peak which knocked the she-demon Corra from the sky, thus banishing all the snakes from Ireland.
Some of the participants in the pilgrimage each year have taken to trekking up the mountain barefoot, however this is now discouraged. The ascent can take its toll on those climbing the mountain, especially under harsh weather conditions.
There is an Information Centre at the foot of the mountains, which was opened in 2000 by Gerry Walsh and his wife Gabrielle. The centre focuses on the many archaeological discoveries on the mountain including: evidence of Christian activity, the discovery of a Celtic hill fort and a dry stone oratory. There is also general information on the South Mayo region and its natural beauty.
The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail (accredited by National Way Marked Way) takes in the heart of rural West May and features many of the outstanding heritage sites in the area. The trail crosses the foothills of Croagh Patrick but does not include a climb to the summit. This trail can be taken at any time of the year and covers a distance of 61km (38 miles) in total.
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