Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick (Irish: Cruach Phádraig, meaning "(Saint) Patrick's Stack"),[1] nicknamed the Reek,[2] is a 764 m (2,507 ft) mountain and an important site of pilgrimage in Mayo, Ireland. It is 8 km (5 mi) from Westport, above the villages of Murrisk and Lecanvey. It is the third highest mountain in Mayo after Mweelrea, and Nephin. It is climbed by pilgrims on Reek Sunday every year, which is the last Sunday in July. 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; the westernmost peak being Ben Gorm.

Croagh Patrick
Cruach Phádraig
The Reek
Highest point
Elevation764 m (2,507 ft)
Prominence639 m (2,096 ft)
ListingP600, Marilyn, Hewitt
Coordinates53.7595°N 9.6584°W / 53.7595; -9.6584
English translation(Saint) Patrick's Mountain
Language of nameIrish
Croagh Patrick
OSI/OSNI gridL906802
Topo mapOSi Discovery 30, 31, 37 or 38
Easiest routeHike


Croagh Patrick comes from the Irish Cruach Phádraig meaning "(Saint) Patrick's stack". It is known locally as "the Reek", a Hiberno-English word for a "rick" or "stack".[3] In pagan times it was known as Cruachán Aigle or Cruach Aigle, being mentioned by that name in sources such as Cath Maige Tuired,[4] Buile Shuibhne,[5] The Metrical Dindshenchas,[6] and the Annals of Ulster entry for the year 1113.[7] 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" (more usually aicile or acaile)[8] or a person's name.[6][9] In addition to its literal meaning, cruach in the pagan name may also have some connection with Crom Cruach.

The Marquess of Sligo, whose seat is nearby Westport House, bears the titles Baron Mount Eagle and Earl of Altamont, both deriving from alternative names (Cruachán Aigle; high mount) for Croagh Patrick.[10]


On the last Sunday in July, thousands of pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick in honour of Saint Patrick who, according to tradition, fasted and prayed on the summit for forty days in the year 441.[11] Masses are held at the summit, where there is a small chapel. From ancient times pilgrims have climbed the mountain barefoot, as an act of penance,[12] a practice that still continues today.

Some pilgrims carry out 'rounding rituals', in which they pray while walking sunwise around features on the mountain. In medieval times, pilgrims carried stones as an act of penance, or to represent a prayer intention. The stones were carried to the cairn on top of the mountain, or to the Cairn on the "saddle" of the mountain, which marks the unofficial "half-way" point at the base of the summit. This practice of carrying stones or rocks on a pilgrimage, to add to a cairn, was thought to bring the pilgrims good luck,[13] and can be seen in many ancient pilgrimage paths, the most notable being the Camino de Santiago.

Some claim that the pilgrimage pre-dates Christianity and was originally a ritual associated with the festival of Lughnasadh.[14][15] It had been claimed that the sheer volume of visitors has led to erosion and has made the mountain more dangerous for climbers.[16]

Tochar Phádraig

Patrick's Causeway (Irish: Tochar Phádraig) is a 30-kilometre old pilgrim road from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick.[17] The road is named after Saint Patrick, but pre-dates Christianity; it is estimated to have been built sometime around 350 AD, as the main route from Cruachan (seat of the Kings of Connacht) to Cruachan Aigle, the pagan name for Croagh Patrick.[17] The Tochar Phadraig route was revived and reopened as a cross-country pilgrimage tourist trail by Pilgrim Paths of Ireland; the 30-kilometre route takes about 10-hours.[17]

Summit chapel

There had been a chapel on the summit since the 5th century,[18] called "Teampall Phádraig". An archaeological excavation in 1994 found the remains of a foundation at the summit. In 824 the Archbishops of Armagh and Tuam disagreed as to who had jurisdiction.[19]

A small chapel was built on the summit and dedicated on 20 July 1905. During the pilgrimage on 31 July 2005, a plaque commemorating its centenary was unveiled by Michael Neary, the Archbishop of Tuam.

Gold discovery

A seam of gold was discovered in the mountain in the 1980s: overall grades of 14 grams of gold per tonne (0.45 oz gold per ton) in at least 12 quartz veins, which could produce 700,000 tonnes (770,000 short tons) of ore — potentially over 300,000 troy oz of gold (worth over €360m). However, due to local resistance by the Mayo Environmental Group headed by Paddy Hopkins, the Mayo County Council decided not to allow mining.[20]

See also


  • Harry Hughes (2010). Croagh Patrick. A Place of Pilgrimage. A Place of Beauty. O'Brien Press. ISBN 9781847171986.
  • Leo Morahan (2001). Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo: archaeology, landscape and people. Westport: Croagh Patrick Archaeological Committee. ISBN 0-9536086-3-8.


  1. Croagh Patrick Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved: 2013-07-31.
  2. Croagh Patrick, Taifid chartlainne (archival records) Archived 14 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved: 2013-07-31.
  3. New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, CD edition 1997, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1973, 1993, 1996.
  4. CELT: The Second Battle of Moytura (translation) - Irish
  5. CELT: Buile Shuibhne (translation) - Irish (Cruachán Oighle)
  6. CELT: The Metrical Dindshenchas, 88 Cruachán Aigle (translation) - Irish
  7. CELT: Annals of Ulster 1113 (translation) - Irish
  8. Entry for aicil at eDIL
  9. Old-Irish-L: Cruachan Aigle 31 Jul 2002
  10. George Edward Cokayne ed. Vicary Gibbs, The Complete Peerage, volume I (1910) p. 113.
  11. "In imitation of the great Jewish legislator on Sinai, he spent forty days on its summit in fasting and prayer, and other penitential exercises." Catholic Encyclopedia
  12. "The History of Croagh Patrick from the Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre - Teach na Miasa". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  13. "Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela: Rituals and Traditions". 12 October 2012.
  14. Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: The Monuments and the People. Syracuse University Press, 1995. p.70
  15. Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2014. p.104
  16. Kieran Cooke (11 October 2015). "The holy mountain that's become too popular". BBC news. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  17. "Tóchar Phádraig Pilgrim Passport". Pilgrim Paths of Ireland. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  18. McDonald, Michael. "Croagh Patrick." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Feb. 2014
  19. Haggerty, Bridget. "He Came To Mock - But Stayed to Pray", Irish Culture and Customs
  20. "Obituary Paddy Hopkins". The Mayo News. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
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