Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage

Written by
Walking Barefoot on Croagh Patrick Walking Barefoot on Croagh Patrick ©Darren McLoughlin 2003

Croagh Patrick, Cruach Phádraig is Ireland's Holy Mountain and like many mountains in Ireland it is busy in summer with climbers.

However, Croagh Patrick is a mountain with a difference, home to a major pilgrimage every year on the last Sunday of July. I've partaken in this pilgrimage in July on many occasions and also throughout the year; but what better way to climb a mountain 764m high, than on a day, known locally as Reek Sunday, when up to 20,000 others are climbing it. There is a sense of camaraderie and the views can be stupendous. 


For the religious there are masses at the summit during the day, the route to the top is usually undertaken from the base at sea level, however, there is a a route that involves a 35km route from Ballintubber Abbey before the climb to the top of the Reek, for the dedicated.

As in a lot of cases the pilgrimage to the top of this mountain dates back to before the arrival of Christianity, being an important pagan summer place of celebration.  Probably because of this it was chosen by Saint Patrick as a place of fasting and reputedly the place in which he banished snakes from Ireland.

2013's pilgrimage, today, saw about 20,000 climb Croagh Patrick and as usual several injuries resulted from heart attacks to falls to hypothermia - the weather can seriously deteriorate quickly because the winds are usually coming in straight off the Atlantic and Croagh Patrick is the first high ground that the wind meets. Many people attempt the climb in flip flops and other inappropriate clothing but some go even further, climbing the mountain, or a portion of it, barefoot.

I had intended to climb it today, the first time in a few years but a back problem has prevented me from doing so.  I would have liked to have climbed Croagh Patrick today, on Reek Sunday but a back problem prevented me from making the ascent. A tough decision but I think that it was necessary, and my back should be thanking me in a few days rather than spending days laid up in bed. The climb is tough, with the final section on a steep scree slope.

Instead here are a few images of the mountain taken on my previous Reek Sunday climbs - hope you enjoy and I look forward to seeing you there next year in 2014. I'll be wearing shoes but if you want to carry yours and go barefoot, please bring plasters!

Climbers halfway up Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday in Co. Mayo, Ireland

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2016 16:51
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

Leave a comment

Contact Us
1000 characters left
Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with our services. With the usage of our services you permit us to use cookies.