Your Ultimate Guide to Climbing Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland

My profound romance with mountains started well before I actually had a chance to climb one, and it was well before I had a chance to see one with my own eyes. Just like with travelling and surfing, it was through the pages of beautifully written mountain books and hair-tingling adventure stories that I introduced myself to all things mountaineering.

Over the years, I stormed through dozens and dozens of books about mountain climbing. First, I combed through the shelves of my local library, excitingly rushing home after each find. Later, I started my own little collection that by now has grown in size and weight.

Some of the books that I read were written with very detailed descriptions of climbing, some of them described remarkable survival experiences yet every single one spoke of deep-rooted determination, mortality, friendship and never-ending love for mountains.

The very first paperback I picked up and read from cover to cover was Into Thin Air, which in my humble opinion is one of the absolute masterpieces of mountaineering, written by my favourite author and mountaineer, Jon Krakauer.

His way of describing and detailing the disastrous 1996 expedition to the Earth’s most prominent peak left me forever in awe of the majestic mountains and the world itself. I was so intrigued by the efforts of determined mountaineers devoted to high-altitude climbing that I was ready to give it a go too!

Pretty flowers along the way.

The first mountain I tackled in Ireland was Croagh Patrick, nicknamed the Reef, and since that day everything changed. I fell in love with the physical challenge as well as with open space, big sky and buzzing insects.

While over the years, my appetite for more impressive summits and challenging hikes grew bigger, I always found time to return to Croagh Patric once a year, often bringing my family and friends along. Given that Ericeira turned six this year and given all the hills and small mountains she’s already been on, we decided to introduce her to a more challenging hike.

As she proudly stood on the summit of Croagh Patric, I realised that walking up mountains with children is easy enough. You just need a fine day, plenty of time, a little patience and a lot of chocolate. 


A short introduction to Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holiest Mountain

Situated near the town of Westport on the shores of Clew Bay and rising gracefully to a height of 765 meters above sea level, Croagh Patrick is known as Ireland’s Holy Mountain.

Its religious significance dates back to the time of the pagans, and historians believe that people are thought to have climbed the 2,056-foot peak in order to celebrate ancient festivals such as Lughnasadh; the beginning of the harvest season. 

When St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, he fasted on the summit for 40 days, which led to the mountain getting its current name.  Legend also has it that it was from here that he banished snakes from Ireland forever.

Every year, on the last Sunday of July, also known as Reek Sunday, up to 25,000 pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick, some of them doing it barefoot.

Every holy mountain has its own tradition and to climb Croagh Patrick, pilgrims walk barefoot and many people still do it today, although Mayo Mountain Rescue is now advising pilgrims not to undertake the hike barefoot at all due to the increase in callouts for help and emergency airlifts from the mountain.

Read More: 10 Essential Items to Pack for an Unforgettable Trip to the Emerald Isle

On the way to the summit

Things to know before you go

The name ‘Croagh Patrick’ comes from the Irish ‘Cruach Phádraig’, meaning Saint Patrick’s stack.

Weather conditions | the weather is extremely changeable on Croagh Patrick and you should check the weather forecast in the morning before they climb. Try to postpone your climb on days with high winds or when there is cloud cover.

Where to stay | Croagh Patrick Hostel, located at the foot of the mountain, and The Old Mill Holiday Hostel in Westport, which are in high demand during the summer season, are two nearby hostels.

Closest towns | Westport, Leenaun, Louisburgh, Carrownisky and Murrisk are all near Croagh Patrick. 

How long does it take | How long does it take to climb Croagh Patrick will depend on your pace and how many times you stop along the way. Generally, it takes around three and half hours to complete an up and down climb of Croagh Patrick

The Stations of the Reek | According to Catholic Ireland, there are several places for reflection and prayers on the route to the top.

The stages include:

  1. At the foot of the mountain.
  2. Along the path – a moment to catch your breath.
  3. At the ridge – a moment to rest.
  4. On the summit – a moment to bow your head.
  5. On the way down – a moment to let go.

Read More: Ireland Travel Guide-11 Fantastic Things To Do in Beautiful County Mayo

The second part of the trail leading up to the summit

The Route to the Summit

The main pilgrimage route originates at the Carpark and the distance from the parking lot to the summit and back is 4.22 miles. With favourable weather conditions and good steady climbing, an ordinary person should be able to reach the summit in about two hours and an hour and a half descending.

It’s best to do the first part slowly as it consists of a long gradual ascent. The lower part of the mountain is covered with grass and heather and the trail running alongside a stream is scattered with loose pebbles and large rocks. As the elevation steadily increases, make sure to turn around as this section provides some of the best views of Clew Bay.

At the end of the first part of the trail, you’ll find a level stretch of ground that provides an option to rest just before the hardest part of the ascent begins. The final ascent of Croagh Patrick presents a real challenge as the trail is scattered with a loose shingle that slips from under the feet.

The descent is as difficult as the way up – the terrain is mostly loose stones and gravel, and it’s very easy to lose your footing, especially on the way down.

Read More: A Short Guide to Visiting Clare Island in County Mayo, Ireland

Even on a cloudy day, the views are spectacular.

The summit of Croagh Patrick

Once you reach the conical summit by carefully traversing through the quartzite boulders and slippery shingle, a small, white chapel where masses are usually said every half hour between 8.00 am and 2pm on Reek Sunday, comes into the view.

The chapel known as St Patrick’s Oratory was built in 1905 on the foundation of a stone oratory by 12 local men, from stones found on the mountainside.

On a good day, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Clew Bay which is home to over 300 drumlin islands.

The White chapel at the top of the mountain.

How to get to Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick is located in Murrisk on the R335 route in County Mayo and the nearest town to the mountain is Westport, a well-established tourist hub with regular train service from Dublin and regular bus service from other regional towns.

The foot of Croagh Patrick is around 5.6 miles west of Westport and the easiest option to get there is either by car or taxi since public transport is sparse.

  • The nearest airport is Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC) providing flights to and from Britain and European airports.
  • Bus Eireann Route 450 from Westport to Louisburgh passes Croagh Patrick.
  • If you are arriving by car, you’ll find a spacious pay-and-display car park at the foot of Croagh Patrick.
The stunning views of Clew Bay, County Mayo

What to bring along on the hike

Ireland’s weather is unpredictable no matter the season and even more so among the mountains. So pack warm and waterproof layers in your backpack, along with the usual essentials for crushing a long day on the trail.

To make your hiking experience to the summit of Croagh Patrick comfortable, start by packing smart. Start by picking up a comfortable backpack which fits and then put heavier things like a second bottle of water or a bulky jacket and keep lighter stuff like snacks near the top where they can be easily accessible.

I would usually line the inside of my backpack with a dry bag for waterproof protection.  If your backpack has exterior pockets, use them for smaller accessories, such as maps, sun cream and any personal items.

Clothing and rain protection | don’t be fooled by the good weather forecast, especially if you’re exploring Ireland’s West coast and heading somewhere remote where the weather can quickly change. You cannot always predict a sudden storm or rain shower, but you can prepare for surprises.

Food and drink | Hiking burns a lot of calories and if you want the hiking experience to be as fun as possible, don’t let yourself get dehydrated and bring plenty of water as well as plenty of healthy snacks so you and your hiking companions can enjoy a moment near a mountain stream.

Sun Protection | Bring along sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn and ultraviolet (UV) radiation and don’t forget sunglasses to shield your eyes.

On the way to the summit.

Things to do and see nearby

Croagh Patrick is surrounded by many beautiful coastal towns and beaches. If you have spare time, make sure you visit New Port and Westport if travelling north and Clare Island and Louisburgh if travelling south.

You can also continue driving along the R335 and look out for signposts that lead to lovely beaches such as Silver Strand, Carrownisky and Carrowmore.

The Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre is located near the National Famine Monument in Murrisk. The beautiful sculpture was unveiled by President Mary Robinson in 1997.

Clare Island, County Mayo, Ireland.

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Now, over to you!

Have you hiked Croagh Patrick? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to County Mayo and have travel-related questions!

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37 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Guide to Climbing Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland

  1. Well done to Ericeira for reaching the summit of Croagh Patric. Funny you should mention chocolate, that’s exactly what I need when I go hiking too. Lovely photos and views. The humble white church is so photogenic. With its conical shape and history steeped in mythology and religion, it is a stunning mountain and certainly an unmissable experience for mountain lovers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Leighton. It’s not very often that we reach the top of the mountain with a toddler in tow ( sometimes there are things even bribing and chocolate can’t overcome); that’s why standing together on the summit of Croagh Patrick was an extra special moment for the whole family. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Maggie. It’s my favourite mountain in Ireland and ever since Ericeira was born, I wanted to climb it with her. This was our second attempt to reach the summit with her and I am so proud she finally made it this year. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Hi, Allan, how are you doing today? 🙂

      Walking up Croagh Patrick is fairly difficult in places as it’s steep, there are uneven rocks to get over and the upper slopes have a lot of loose, slippy scree. The tricky upper slopes require good fitness and flexibility (and a head for heights!). Good hiking boots make it a lot safer and more doable and once you are on the top, it makes the climb worthwhile. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. Doing well, thanks Aiva. How are you doing?
        The reason we did not hike up in 2017, was because we did not have our hiking boots with us. It was a glorious day and would have been perfect for the hike. Hiking boots are necessary for good footing and stability for sure. Have a great day. Allan

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    1. Thanks so much, Rebecca. The final section of the climb- the start of a huge pyramid-shaped mountain top covered in loose scree (stones and rocks), makes for tough climbing. You’ll need to be extra cautious along this steep section, and sometimes walking in a side-to-side, or zig-zag shape can make it a little easier. You’ll definitely appreciate seeing the small church as you finally reach the summit. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. It’s a moderate to strenuous hike, so you have to take extra care, especially on the last leg of the climb. Solid hiking boots are advisable, particularly for the rocky/uneven parts of the climb. The chapel that sits on Croagh Patrick’s summit was built in 1905 by 12 local men, using local stone and cement that was hauled up the mountain’s steep sides by donkey. I can only imagine the challenges they had to overcome during the process. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  2. Loved your post and photos. Fantastic views all along the way! Lots of great history to that mountain. How interesting to see a church at the top! I too think Into Thin Air is one of the best books written about the mountains and the power they possess!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Croagh Patrick is one of Ireland’s most stunning mountain climbs with its unique conical shape towering above the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the rugged west coast. On a clear day, it offers panoramic views of the hundreds of tiny, green drumlin islands in Clew Bay, the Wild Atlantic Way, the gorgeous tourist town of Westport and surrounding mountain ranges. I am glad to hear you are also a fan of Into Thin Air! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Croagh Patrick is a peak steeped in history, religion and mythology. At 764m high and offering breathtaking views across Clew Bay, climbing it is also a rite of passage for hiking enthusiasts. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried and gave up!!! I know – the walk of shame back downhill!! We were in Mayo last summer and it was on the list – left it until after a rather large lunch! I knew fairly quickly I wasn’t going to make it that day! Tom went on though and finished it – found it tough enough towards the top. But I think I’ll give it another go some time….

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    1. There’s no need to be ashamed, Marie. Whatever the size, Irish mountains are known to be very challenging, what they make lack in size, they certainly make up in difficult terrain (I’ve lost count of how many times I had to scramble over loose boulders and scree), access and do not mention those ever-changing weather conditions – the weather, for the most part, is very unpredictable throughout the year, particularly so on Ireland’s West Coast. It is not uncommon for low cloud cover to develop suddenly which is why it is essential you are prepared in advance when climbing some of the country’s peaks. I hope you make it one day! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Glenys. People often say to me that your climbing life is over when you have children, but as I am pretty stubborn and someone who loves climbing mountains, they have no choice but to follow my lead all the way to the top! Yes, it can be frustrating at times but it is highly recommended. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  4. The views are spectacular and hurray for Ericeira for being a mountain climber at age six! I definitely wouldn’t go up barefoot, but then again, my podiatrist doesn’t even want me walking around barefoot on my own hardwood floors, so I have a good excuse. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! Yes, the views are stunning, and I enjoy them every time we are on the way to the top. As for summiting with small children – hiking and climbing with kids are wonderful and exciting experiences. I believe that starting very young could be one of the key points, but a child should never be pushed on a hike and you have to let them set the pace. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. During my time in Dublin, it was more trendy to attend the big concerts in the summer (often in the mud), but less so to climb mountains as was the tradition before. I’m glad to see that the tradition survives anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad to see that too. Although attending the big, multi-day concerts during the summer is still a novelty, especially if in the lineup are some of your favourite bands. When we lived in Dublin, we escaped pretty much every weekend to Glendalough valley where we could see plenty of young families, couples and elderly people hitting the slopes. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Hi, Marion and thanks so much. Hiking with kids is fun, you just have to expect the unexpected. Hills and mountains are charged with a powerful religious symbolism: mountaintops are closer to the sky, and therefore to God. That may explain why, since the birth of Christianity, churches have been built on top of steep cliffs, rocky mountains or gentle hilltops, yet I can’t even imagine what it must take to bring all the building materials and tools to the top of the mountain. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  6. It’s neat that you’ve returned so many times to Croagh Patrick, the first mountain that you’ve climbed in Ireland. I couldn’t imagine hiking, let alone up a mountain, in bare feet! The views from the summit look breathtaking.

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    1. Shrouded in mist and dotted with some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, Ireland is a paradise for hill walking. What they may lack in Alpine attitude, they more than make up for in sheer rugged beauty and atmosphere. Over the years, I’ve seen many many people climbing it barefoot, but never had a desire to do it myself. Maybe, one day. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, Aiva, the views from the top are stunning! How awesome that Ericeira was able to do this one with you. It seems you have a future mountain climber in the family. Although I grew up surrounded by mountains, my family never really climbed them. We camped and hiked down lower, but never to summits. So I can relate to your opening paragraphs. Into Thin Air was one of the first adventure books I remember reading as well, and it helped develop my love and respect for the mountains.

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    1. Thanks so much, Diana. I love mountains very much and wouldn’t be able to keep away from them for too long. And ever since we became parents we had to find a way to continue doing things that we love. I wasn’t gonna wait for my kids to grow up in order to pursue travelling, surfing and climbing. We started hiking and camping once Ericeira was four months old and never looked back. Next summer, I would very much love to climb a mountain that’s at least double the size of Croagh Patrick – but in order to do that, we have to go someplace else, because in Ireland we only have three mountains above 1000 m. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Christie. We’ve been exercising in the nearby hills and mountains ever since we moved to Ireland’s West Coast and always brought Ericeira with us. Sometimes the whole process of reaching the top took three times longer than usual, but it really pays off to teach kids to love being active outdoors. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. I hope all is well 🙂 Aiva xx

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  8. The views are stunning! I love that you have this little tradition of going each year and loved the part about the “history” of the trail. I am not much of a “mountain girl” myself but it is always in such landscapes that I marvel the most at how gorgeous and impressive our planet is. Maybe I should try moutain climbing once, though the opportunities are scarce in Belgium!!

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    1. Hi, Juliette, how are you doing? I had to look up and see what the highest peak in Belgium is. Turns out that with Signal de Botrange located at 694 metres, you are definitely beating Latvia’s highest one, which is a mere 311 metres! Our highest point is so small, Latvians like to say that it is actually 311.5 m! Whether for the view or for the challenge, you should give the mountains a go one day. Who knows, you might even find a new hobby. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. Oh I didn’t know Latvia was even more flat than Belgium!! I know some people nickname Belgium “the flat country” ahah! I really want to give the mountains a try too!

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