Climbing Croagh Patrick In 2021: How Long It Takes, Difficulty + The Trail

Everything you need to know for the perfect hike

climbing croagh patrick
Photos via Shutterstock

A morning spent climbing Croagh Patrick Mountain is arguably one of the best things to do in Mayo.

Nicknamed ‘The Reek’, Croagh Patrick Mountain stands at an impressive 764m (2,507 feet), which makes it the 4th highest mountain in the county.

And, while the climb is tricky towards the top (more on this below), those that conquer the Croagh Patrick hike on a clear day will be treated to one of the best panoramic views in Ireland.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the walk, from how like it takes to climb Croagh Patrick to what to expect along the way.

Some quick need-to-knows about climbing Croagh Patrick

getting to the top of croagh patrick
She’s a long way to the top. Photo © The Irish Road Trip

So, unlike some of the shorter walks in and around Westport, like the one out to Tourmakeady Waterfall, the Croagh Patrick walk needs a little bit of planning.

Here’s some quick need-to-knows, from how long does it take to climb Croagh Patrick to where to park nearby.

1. How long it takes

How long it takes to climb Croagh Patrick will depend on your pace and how long you stop along the way and at the summit. When I did it last, it took us 3.5 to 4 hours from top to bottom. I’ve heard of a few people doing it in 2 and a half hours and I’ve heard of a lot of people taking 4 hours+ to get up and down.

2. Height

Ireland’s holiest mountain strands at 764m (2,507 feet) in height, making the Reek the 4th highest mountain in County Mayo.

3. Difficulty

The Croagh Patrick climb, for the most part, is just a long aul slog, as you’re walking at a sharp incline for a good chunk of the hike. The tricky part that’s quite dangerous is when you get close to the top, as you need to make your way up past a lot of loose stones. This can be challenging on the way down.

4. What to bring

A light bag with snacks and water. Dress for the weather and remember it’ll be a lot cooler towards the top of the mountain than it is at ground level. It’s also worth getting a stick from the place in the car park. More on this below.

5. Parking

There’s a car park at the foot of Croagh Patrick Mountain but, as this is one of the most popular things to do in Westport / Murrisk, this tends to fill up quickly on weekends, especially during the summer. If you can’t get space here, you’ll find parking space along the road, not far from the car park entrance.

6. Weather

It’s worth checking the weather (yr.no is a good one) before setting off on your climb, and then planning your climb accordingly. The clearer the day the better – otherwise you’ll arrive at the top to a sea of misty cloud.

An overview of each stage of the Croagh Patrick climb

climbing croagh patrick
Photos via Shutterstock

So, I’m going to break down the various stages of the Croagh Patrick hike, for those of you that like to know what to expect.

Later in the guide, you’ll find some essentials for the hike, like what to bring, what to buy (yes, I’m banging on about a stick again…) and more.

1. Before climbing Croagh Patrick, appreciate its history

old photo on croagh patrick
People climbing Croagh Patrick in 1910. Courtesy of the Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives

Considered to be Ireland’s holiest mountain, Croagh Patrick is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron Saint. It was at the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD.

Stretching back a whopping 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption, the pilgrimage takes place on the last Sunday of July.

Known as Reek Sunday, it attracts over 25,000 pilgrims each year and originally began during the time of the pagans, when people gathered here to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season.

2. Starting the walk

how long to climb croagh patrick
Photo by Frank Bach (Shutterstock)

One of the beauties of the Croagh Patrick walk is how straightforward the route to the top is. The ancient pilgrimage route for the Reek starts from the little village of Murrisk, but you can kick things off right from the car park.

You’ll find the Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre (aka Teach na Miasa) just past the car park where there’s a coffee shop, restaurant and toilets. I’d recommend that you nip in here and grab a stick (€4 a few years back).

When you leave the car park, you’ll make your way onto a tarmac road and you keep going until you reach some steps. It’s from here that the Croagh Patrick walk really starts.

3. The Croagh Patrick hike begins

walking up the reek
Photo by Meirav Ben Izhak (shutterstock)

From the steps, you’ll notice the ground underfoot start to become rocky, sometimes muddy and always uneven. You’ll start to notice a gentle increase in the incline from here, as you walk up along a little stream.

The views start to open up a little behind you, and you get your first glimpse of the islands on Clew Bay. There’s plenty of places to rest up if you need it.

4. The ‘half way’ point

half way up the Croagh Patrick walk
Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

Keep on going for around 40 minutes to 1 hour and you’ll come to a point where the ground levels out. This is referred to by some as the half way point.

There’s a bathroom not far from this point. Now, some people turn around here, others use it for a bit of a food pit-stop while others power on through.

Head towards the foot of what nearly looks like a second mountain. It’s time to make your final descent. When we did this last, it took us 40 minutes to reach the summit from this point.

This section of climbing Croagh Patrick is steep and it’s very easy to loose your footing. A stick comes in very handy here. Keep on going and make sure to soak up the views behind you.

5. The tricky scramble to the summit

the croagh patrick climb
Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

Arguably the hardest part of the Croagh Patrick hike is the section right before you hit the summit – it’s just loads of very loose stone that you really do need to scramble to get up.

What makes this even more tricky is the fact that your almost vertical at this point, so make sure to use care (again – a stick comes in handy).

6. The reward

croagh patrick hike
Photo via Anna Efremova (shutterstock)

When you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted (hopefully) with one of the best views in Ireland. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

In front of you, the mighty Clew Bay opens up. Take a seat and soak it all up. The story goes that Clew Bay has 365 islands – one for every day of the year.

It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and, according to The Book of Armagh, built a Church.

During an archaeological excavation on the summit in 1995, the foundation of a stone oratory dating back to between 430 and 890 AD was unearthed. The white Church pictured above was built in the early 1900s by Dr Healy, Archbishop of Tuam, and Fr Michael McDonald.

7. Making your way back down

climb croagh patrick with a stick
My semi crushed/almost empty bottle of water: Photo © The Irish Road Trip

When you finish up at the summit, it’s time to get back down, and this is where the Croagh Patrick walk can be dangerous.

The stones that you used to get to the summit give way under you at times so take it handy and stick to the left.

There’s a slight edge from the summit that runs a good stretch of the way down. You’ll be able to get a decent bit of grip here to help you on your way.

Things to do near Croagh Patrick

If you’re planning on climbing Croagh Patrick and you fancy seeing more stuff nearby, hop into our guide to County Mayo.

It’s packed with things to do, places to visit and advice on where to grab a post-adventure pint or bite to eat. Here are some other suggestions.

1. Post-hike food (and/or pints)

guinness mayo
Post hike pints

If you’re in need of a feed after climbing Croagh Patrick, you’ve this lovely little pub just outside the car park where you can grab a victory pint and a bite to eat. Or, there are plenty of restaurants in Westport and loads of pubs in Westport to drop into, also. There’s also lots of hotels in Westport and B&Bs in Westport if you’re looking for somewhere to stay.

2. Beaches, Islands and an incredible valley

silver strand beach mayo
Photos via Shutterstock

If you fancy doing a bit of exploring after climbing Croagh Patrick, you’re a short spin away from loads to see and do. Here are some suggestions:

FAQs about climbing Croagh Patrick Mountain in Mayo

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long does it take to climb Croagh Patrick to queries about Croagh Patrick height an difficulty.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How long does it take to climb Croagh Patrick?

The length of time that it takes you to complete the climb is going to completely depend on pace. It took us roughly 3 and a half hours to get to the top and back down.  I’ve heard of a few people doing it in 2 and a half hours and I’ve heard of a lot of people taking 4 hours to get up and down.

How high is Croagh Patrick?

Ireland’s holiest mountain stands at an impressive 764 m (2,507 ft) and you’ll be able to see it in the distance from many places in the county.

Is Croagh Patrick hard to climb?

This is going to completely depend on the person. However, regardless of fitness level, climbing Croagh Patrick is pretty difficult in places.When get close to the summit, the ground is extremely loose which makes getting a solid footing no mean feat.

How do you get to Croagh Patrick from Westport?

if you’re travelling from Westport, it’s a handy 13-minute drive, a kind of handy 32-minute cycle and a definitely not handy 3-hour walk. You could also grab a taxi from the town if you’re not driving.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I’m climbing this June as last year the weather was too rough for the climb. Thanks for the article, very helpful and made me feel ok about being old and taking it slow

    • Thanks for commenting Dawn – glad it was helpful. Hopefully the weather proves to be a bit better this time. Definitely don’t worry about taking it slow – some people run up it and others just take their time and take it as it comes. Have a great time. Keith

  2. Is there a time of year you recommend? My husband and I were in Westport on honeymoon during the annual pilgrimage back in 2012 and it was busy! I’d rather avoid the 25000 🙂

    • God – I’d say it was mental!

      I did it in the summer with my Dad and it was pretty busy. I’ve a friend who does it with family on St. Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26th) and apparently, depending on the weather, it can be busy then, too.

      It’ll be quieter mid-week, definitely.

      I had a look online but couldn’t find anything that detailed visitor numbers.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Keith

    • I’ve just asked my dad there as I couldn’t for the life of me remember.

      There are toilet facilities almost at the half way point.

  3. Hi there,
    My family and I are planning on attempting CP on Garland Friday (before reek Sunday). I really want to do it in memory of my dad but I am very scared about the top (especially coming down – if I get that far). My question may be silly but I am wondering if I could sit down and do some of the descent that way (sitting) with gloves (I don’t trust my feet).

    • Hi Jen,

      Sorry – I’ve been away on holidays for the past week and I’m only catching messages here now.

      Me and my dad climbed Croagh Patrick while my back was dodgy and his hip was at him. By far the trickiest part of the climb was the first 20 minutes of the descent – but we made it without any falls, Thank God.

      While you could absolutely sit and ease yourself down, you could also hold onto a little ledge on the left as you descend.

      Ledge isn’t the right way to describe the thing that you can hold, but I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what it was. It could have just been thin rock jutting up out of the mountain.

      Rent one of the sticks when you get there and take your time. If you don’t think you’re up for it, just give the top half a miss.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi. Making or planning to do a pilgrimage with my brother. We are planning early November v mid to late October
    Is it much more difficult during this time
    Could there be snow?
    Thanks
    EFG

  5. Hello, just wanted to confirm that this hike can be done year round, planning a trip next month and curious if the stick rental and Visitor Center will be closed. Any insight? Thank you!

    • Hi Mandy,

      So, while I’ve never done this hike at any time other than summer, I know people that have.

      That being said, always exercise caution. The weather can change at a moments notice, so be sure to check well in advance.

      As far as the stick rental place and the visitor centre, I’m not sure. It could be worth grabbing one of those walking sticks with the spike at the end from a hiking shop before departing.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  6. Hi,
    I will be travelling to Westport on Friday 1st November and I am so hoping to climb CP that weekend.
    My level of fitness is pretty good, as I climbed various mountains in the past such as Snowdon, and the Yorkshire 3 peaks. However I am just concerned about the weather, is it wise to attempt the climb in November?
    Regards
    Christina.

  7. Hi Keith, we were there last week and the rate for the sticks is four Euros, with two returned back. Or you can buy the sticks for four Euros at the cafe in the car park. We reached only half-way to the top because of wind and rain. Even from there the views were spectacular.

  8. Hi Keith, we were there last week and the rate for the sticks is four Euros, with two returned back. Or you can buy the sticks for four Euros at the cafe in the car park. We reached only up to the shoulder because of wind and rain.(Being from Mumbai, our tolerance for the cold is zero?). Even from there the views were spectacular.

  9. I did this 4 years ago on an absolutely beautiful day at age 65. Tried to do it again 2 weeks ago with gale force winds and sideways rain and only made it about 2/3 of the way up. It’s not a disgrace to turn around and head down. I was very cold and soaked to the bone. Strongly suggest waterproof gear and shoes. Good shoes and a hiking stick are a must. Also it’s better to turn around rather than needing to be rescued.

  10. Loved reading this! My husband & myself are thinking of climbing it tomorrow, NYears eve, what better way to end one year & get ready for the next! Your advice & narrative was the best so much so that no matter where in the world you are reading this & planning/contemplating on climbing Croagh Patrick your description & advice makes you want to do it even more! Thank you & Happy New Year..from the summit??

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