Protecting the Path for Portwest People

Croagh Patrick is known The Holy Mountain for Pilgrims but it's also the Holy Grail for the Weekend Warriors of Ireland. Now the Holy Path is under restoration to ensure the sustainability for generations to come. 

If you’ve ventured up the pilgrim’s path of Croagh Patrick recently you may have noticed a team of workers busy on the trail. The project, known as the Sustainable Access and Habitat Restoration Project commenced in May 2021 to repair the erosion on the pilgrim path. But before we dive into the restoration project, let’s take a look into Croagh Patrick’s history.

The name 'Croagh Patrick' comes from the Irish 'Cruach Phádraig' meaning 'Patrick's Stack'. Locally, the mountain is known as “The Reek”. Turf and hay are traditionally dried in open air piles, often referred to as "ricks” or “stacks”. These ricks resemble the shape of Croagh Patrick and so the name stuck. “Patrick” refers to St. Patrick, who is the patron saint of Ireland. He’s credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and legend has it he banished all the snakes from Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th of March, which is the day St Patrick is believed to have died. 

Croagh Patrick has been a place of pilgrimage for at least 1,500 years. In 1994 excavations revealed a small oratory on the mountain dating to 430 A.D. In 1905, one year after Portwest was founded, 12 local men built a chapel perched on top of Croagh Patrick. The chapel still stands proud today, almost 120 years later. 

Every year 100,000 people make the journey to the 764m summit with an estimated 5,000 – 10,000 who climb Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday (The Last Sunday of July) alone. Not to mention all of us nature lovers and weekend warriors who call Croagh Patrick our playground. All these visitors are wonderful, but it comes at a price.

In 2015 the annual Reek Sunday event was cancelled because of heavy rain. The Croagh Patrick Stakeholder Group was formed because of community concerns about the condition of the mountain. The aim of the project is to heal the erosion wound on Croagh Patrick from the impact of high visitor numbers annually. 

Do you love beautiful sunrises? We won’t lie, Croagh Patrick is a tough climb but sunrise at The Reek hits different. You can see the islands of Clew Bay bobbing below. Take a guess at the number of islands in Clew Bay? 365! We know……we couldn’t believe it either.

And if Croagh Patrick is on your bucket list this year, you can almost guarantee one thing. The climate at the summit will be different than on the ground. Remember, there’s a reason it’s called the Wild Atlantic Way. Out of almost 100,000 people who climb Croagh Patrick every year, Mayo Mountain Rescue and the Coastguard receive about 50 call outs. Most people ascend and descend safely. You can play your part by following all trail signs and wearing appropriate footwear and clothing. You can pop in to our two stores in Westport, only 15 minutes from Croagh Patrick. We’ve climbed The Reek more times than there are days of the week and our team will be on hand to advise you how to keep warm and dry on the trails.

And so the challenge for the restoration team is to construct a path to become part of the landscape and to encourage vegetation regrowth. The restoration team, led by Matt McConway have noticed vegetation is regrowing thanks to work on the path. This is how Matt described the repairs –

“Imagine a dry-stone wall in a similar technique but we’re laying it flat into the ground with small risers. Each stone is placed by hand into position and next stone is shaped and placed next to it and so on.

It’s about preserving its legacy and cementing it for the future.

And The Reek holds a special place for Portwest, you might recognize our logo is the outline of the mountain. The restoration project allows Croagh Patrick to be explored and enjoyed sustainably for another 1,500 years. The team are due to finish the project this year. If you meet the team at work, make sure you say hi.

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