Posting again on the bus. As I wrote In my post about our walk to Drummin, Marian advised us to climb Croag Patrick instead of doing the scheduled walk.
Croag Patrick (or the Rock) is Ireland’s Holy Mountain. It is it is a natural pyramidal monmument which dominates the skyline on County Mayo’s west coast, rising to a height of 765 m. (2510 feet). Yes, we climbed it and wait until you see the path.
Long before the arrival of Christianity to Ireland they know that the summit of Croag Patrick was occupied by a hillfort, complete with stone ramparts and dwellings. Evacuation have been carried out and among earliest dateable finds are beads which date to the 3rd century B.C. Pilgrimage has been carried out here for over 1500 years from early Christian times to the present without interruption and upwards of 100,000 visitors come to Croag Pattrick every year. Individuals and groups come from all parts of the world and include pilgrims, hill climbers, historians, archeologists, and nature lovers.
There are 3 special times each year for the official pilgrimages. The most important one seems to be in July and I find it interesting that it coincides with the pagan celebration on Lugh and the beginning of the harvest season. A video we saw at a fort back on the Dingle Way said something about “The Invasion of the Vikings and Christianity.”
Some penitents even climb in their bare feet although I didn’t see any. I did see many people climbing in sneakers and without poles and, personally, I think that was a bit crazy. It is advised to have a sturdy stick, some drinking water, and proper footwear.
Anyway, let’s get to the photos of our climb.
This is the view from where we started. Did I say it was another perfect weather day?
The marker is not a hiker, but a cross.
Here are some views of the valley below as we started up the easier part of the path.
We walked up to the right for a while before the actual path started.
At one point the mountain was a bit hidden by the hill we were climbing
It didn’t take too long before we came to the rocky path. Our German friends were behind us and the path wasn’t too bad yet.
Mauritz is very nearsighted and he needs Flourin to guide him.
There were also people ahead of me who were with a small tour group and a guide.
I kept looking back at the views …
And at the mountain ahead of me …
And more views…
We came upon a Cairn next to the path. The story is that Leacht Benain was with Saint Patrick when he began to climb the mountain. But he waited at the spot while Saint Patrick went to do his 40 day fast. saint Patrick was reportedly both following the examples of Christ and Moses. It is said that he also wanted to rid the mountain of the Pagans. When Saint Patrick return down the mountain, all he found were the bones of Lescht Benain. It is said that the birds ate him down to the bones. So this Cairn was erected and you are suppose to walk around it 7 times saying 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys,and 1 Creed.
Flourin and I each put a stone on the Cairn and walked around once.
According to a photo that Mary took at the end of hiking the mountain and posted on Facebook, the Cairn is only one of the stages. Here are others.
The path became more and more rock. I’m not sure photos even come close to showing how carefully I had to take each step. Some people were coming back down.
No, the people ahead of me are not at the top yet.
One more view over the edge.
I looked back at the people coming up and realized that our German friends had turned back. It was too dangerous for Mauritz.
There were others who told me that they were also turning back because they were slipping too much.
Mary also took this photo of one person going up and another coming down. Was this really where we walked?
You can see the peat fields in the distance. They use the peat to heat their homes,
Mary took a photo of me when I was coming over the ridge and almost to the top.
It seemed like we could see forever from the top – 360 degrees of view. Although it was a bit hazy and we really couldn’t see 365 islands reported to be out there, it was spectacular.
Somewhere there are remains of the first church that was built at the top which was dated back to the 13th and 14th century. The church which is there now was constructed in 1905 and was extended from 1962 to 1965.
During an early excavation for the new oratory a skull and some bones were found. They were believed to be those of somebody named Robert Binn, but according to the Ordinance Survey Map of 1839, his grave was 30 meters east of the church. So it is a mystery as to who is buried there. I actually have no idea of who Robert Binn actually was.
All materials for the church were local, and the sand and cement were drawn up the mountain on donkey or horse-back. Poor animal hoofs.
Mary and I had both misunderstood Marian’s instructions and thought that we were suppose to take another trail down the backside of Croagh Patrick and then walk along the bay to Westport. In fact, we had to go back down from whence we came
There were a few goats on the way down.
I think that the path to the right in the distance in the following photo is the one we came up and the long one to the left is the one we descended.
We continued down, and down, and down much further than we had come up in the first place. We were headed towards a town by the bay. I didn’t take photos on the way down. I was concentrating so much on where I was stepping. I was so glad to finally see the bay and reach the stream bed because I figured I was near the bottom.
But we still had a way to go.
I know that 100,000 people do this each year and some of them are about 10 years old, yet I think my walking the whole thing was pretty incredible.
When we finally reached the town at the bottom, we learned that we still had 9 km to go along a road before we reached Westport.
We passed one of the archaeology sites along the way. The stones increasing in size from north to south draw ones eyes to the nitch in Croagh Patrick. Sometime on December 21st the sun dips into the little nitch in the mountain. Another Pagan site.
When we got close to Westport we decided to take the coast road into town. Luckily the van with the people we had met on Croagh Patrick game by and the tour guide picked us up. We were only a km or 2 from Lurgen B&B, but I was ready for a ride.
After settling in for a while, Ena (our hostess) took us into town. I had prawn curry that was very good at J. J. O’Malloy’s and then we went to Matt Malloy’s to hear music.
The owner of this bar played with the Chieftains, a group who won Grammy Awards.
The place was packed. I had the perfect spot right next to the musicians and singer. Everybody was moving to the music.
It was an absolutely fabulous jam session. Musicians kept joining in and switching places. I was loving every minute of it. One young woman sat in with her beautiful Norwegian fiddle and I heard the guitar playing singer ask her where she was from and she said, Minnesota. Everyone was welcome to play with them. The camaraderie and playfulness among the musicians was palpable.
If there was any town on this trip so far that I wish we could have spent an extra day and evening, it would have been Westport.
By the way, the views from our 3 bus rides today were wonderful, but they go by way too fast.
Tomorrow we will start our last six days of walking. We will be on the Burren Way. Wonder if this fantastic weather will continue.