Croagh Patrick has been a place of pilgrimage since the
Stone Age. Nowadays the annual pilgrimage is held on the last Sunday in
July which is known as 'Reek Sunday'. Thousands climb the Reek and
come from all over Ireland and abroad. There is a huge local effort
involved in the organization of the annual pilgrimage. The Order of
Malta are busy from midnight looking after the safety of pilgrims and
attend to all injuries, bringing those to hospital who need attention.
Extra car parks are arranged, using nearby fields. Croagh Patrick
visitor centre caters for people's needs, with food drinks and showers.
Mass is celebrated in the small oratory on the summit every hour from
6AM. There is a great feeling of friendship and camaraderie as
people descending encourage those ascending. Some people make the climb
annually on Reek Sunday and never miss the occasion. People climb
Croagh Patrick all year around and in recent years the challenge of
climbing the Reek has been taken up for fundraising purposes for
Saint Patrick, according to history climbed the mountain in 441 AD and fasted on the summit for forty days and forty nights. It was during this time, legend has it, that Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland today.
As well as pilgrims, hill climbers, historians, archaeologists and geologists all climb the mountain. There was an excavation done in 1994 which discovered evidence of Christian and also Pre-Christian activity (the latter was a discovery of a Celtic hill fort encircling the summit of the mountain). There is also the Rolling Stone phenomenon where the Sun appears to roll down the mountain at the Solstice when viewed from the Boheh Rock.
Nearby is the National Famine Memorial which is a reminder of all those who died in the Great Famine in Ireland in the 19th century.
Murrisk Abbey which dates from early Christian times is also nearby and well worth a visit.
The view from the summit of Croagh Patrick is stunning. On a clear day there is a panoramic view of Clew Bay with its 365 islands (one for every day of the year). Clare Island is the largest island in Clew Bay and is still inhabited. It is possible to visit Clare Island as two companies provide a ferry service. There you can see the 15th century Tower, once the home of the Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley.