Croagh Patrick is a hike that most Irish people will undertake at least once in their lifetime – whether it be as a school tour, for fun or even for the yearly pilgrimage. It’s undoubtedly the most famous hike in Ireland.  Whatever the reason, when climbing Croagh Patrick you’ll realise it’s a tough aul climb! The 100,000 people who do it each year will know this first-hand.  And it takes time. But just how tough is Croagh Patrick? Let’s have a look (coming from someone who has done it twice!).

What is Croagh Patrick

Where is it?

Croagh Patrick is undoubtedly one of the most famous hikes in Ireland. It stands proudly in the background when visiting Westport in Co.Mayo. In fact, it’s just 10 minutes drive (9.3km) from the buzzing tourist town. It quite literally towers over the area and you can’t miss it when exploring this part of Mayo.

Why is it so important?

Croagh Patrick is actually a famous pilgrimage. The name means Hill of Patrick – Croagh is the Irish for mountain or hill. The legend is that in 441AD, St Patrick spent lent on top of the mountain, and remains were found of an old stone chapel at the top.

What is at the top of Croagh Patrick?

To honour this, once a year mass is held on top of the mountain in the new chapel. It’s on the last Sunday of July and up to 25K people are thought to make the climb.

How long is Croagh Patrick climb?

Croagh Patrick is 7km to the top which might not seem like much, but it’s the incline that makes it so difficult. It stands at 764m (2,507 feet) and while it’s not the highest mountain in Ireland, nor is it close, it’s the steep incline that makes it so tough!

How long does it take to climb?

This will completely depend on your fitness, age, and how often you like to stop. I’ve done it twice now. The first time took me 6 hours – but this is a lot. I stopped a lot and stayed at the summit for an hour to fly a drone and have lunch.

The second time it took 4 and a half hours. I would say this is a pretty average time to do it with a lunch break at the top.

When is the best time to climb Croagh Patrick?

I would say that early morning is the best time to start the climb. For views, shortly after sunrise or just before sunset would be best, but for safety I’d definitely go for the morning. Why?

Doing Croagh Patrick in the morning

Firstly, if you’re doing it in the summer, it won’t be too warm yet. You’ll also have the most amount of daylight hours to complete the hike and most importantly, it won’t be too busy yet!

In the middle of the day it can get quite busy and the steps at the top are narrow, so it’s easier if you aren’t competing with people racing up behind you and those on their way back down. By going in the morning you can take your time, enjoy the views and not feel rushed by people behind you.

Doing Croagh Patrick in the morning

I’ve done the climb just before sunset and the views were insane. We got the most beautiful golden light at the top. However, I wouldn’t say this is the best time to climb for a few reasons:

  • There was a huge number of people coming back down which made the steps more tricky and you’d have to pull in a lot to let people by
  • The midges were out – these flies will be out in thick clouds in the evening / late afternoon and will have you destroyed in bites. It was not pleasant so avoid this time especially in the summer – unless you’re ladden in bug spray
  • if you stay at the top too long you risk coming down in the dark which would be very dangerous on the steep steps

What to wear climbing Croagh Patrick?

The main thing you need to remember is in Ireland, you must change for ever-changing conditions.

Croagh Patrick in Summer:

In summer, definitely wear lighter clothes but have layers. You’ll be really warm climbing but as you reach the top you’ll get cold quick. It’s exposed and the winds are normally strong and cold. So be sure to have a warm top for when you reach the summit and a windproof and waterproof layer for the top or if it’s raining.

What to wear in winter:

For winter, you’ll want to be dressed extra warm, have a hat, thick gloves, scarf/snood and thermals on. Be prepared for the wind, the cold and rain.

Do You Need Hiking Boots for Croagh Patrick?

Definitely have hiking boots or good trail runners. The first time I did it in boots and the second time I did it in really good trail runners. Both were fine. You need good footwear with grip but prepare for blisters no matter what!

Conclusion – How Tough is Croagh Patrick

There is no doubt this is a tough climb. The first time I took on this mountain I HATED it. I actually had a panic attack near the top because I was so tired and was nervous looking down from the height. But I kept going and the second time I actually enjoyed it a lot. Some people will only go to the first summit and that’s ok. The views from here are just as beautiful. However far you get or however long it takes, remember to look around and enjoy it!

Tinyboots

 

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