Climbing Croagh Patrick – August 2015

“It will take you an hour and a half to get up and two hours to get down”, said the woman in the sports shop in Westport. We were buying waterproofs ahead of our climb up Croagh Patrick, the 700 or so metre mountain in Mayo which has been a place of pilgrimage since St Patrick spent 40 days and nights there not eating and contemplating how to banish snakes from Ireland. Raingear is essential for a summer holiday in the west of Ireland (“Put the wipers on when ye get to Portumna” as the fella sez) but more especially when it is the wettest summer on record (fact courtesy of the man in the Clifden gift shop). And she was about right on timing but don’t let the photos of elderly pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick in their bare feet fool you. It’s a hard slog going up and down.  Think steep mounds of loose shale and boulders, not grassy ‘Sound of Music’  uplands. It looks like this…

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and three-quarters of the way up…. the really bizarre sight of a display area for a company selling artificial grass. Really? Is this just a really great bit of entrepreneurial advertising or terribly bad taste? Can’t help thinking it is like something  from Father Ted.

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And while you’re here, can I interest you in an artificial lawn?

What was next? Starbucks on the summit? Actually, no. This church is on the summit.

Church on top of Croagh Patrick built in 1905 (or at least around teatime)
Church on top of Croagh Patrick built in 1905 (or at least around teatime)

Still even if the walk up wasn’t pretty, it was a sociable event. On the day we climbed we passed about 40 others trekking up and down, not quite the 20,000 odd who do the pilgrimage on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July every year. The climbers, passing us on their way down, were full of encouraging words ‘not long to go now’, ‘it will have cleared when you get there’, ‘the view will be worth it’. And finally, we got there. And spread out before us was a blanket of cloud…

 

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…which slowly parted to show the magnificent views of Clew Bay.

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Yep, the view over the bay was worth the hike even if we didn’t manage any of the tasks set for the pilgrims  like walking round mounds of stones seven times saying ‘Hail Marys’ and ‘Our Fathers’.  We did work up a pretty good appetite though and after 40 days of fasting St Patrick would probably have approved of the menu choice that night – sausages and mash smathered in onion gravy ( Campervan Cooking page).

 

 

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