Climbing Croagh Patrick In 2020: The Stuff You Need To Know Before Your Hike

Everything you need to know for the perfect hike

climbing croagh patrick
Photo by Gareth McCormack

So, climbing Croagh Patrick had been on my to-do list for several years.

But due to a number of reasons, it wasn’t until 2016 that myself and the aul lad visited Mayo and we actually ended up reaching the top.

At the time, I was 5 months post-back surgery and he had a dodgy hip.

I distinctly remember beginning the Croagh Patrick hike and turning around to him and saying, “We’ll end up dying up this thing“.

While secretly wondering whether or not my travel insurance would foot the bill for the pair of us being airlifted from the top of Ireland’s Holiest mountain…

Doubts aside – climbing Croagh Patrick is one of the best things that I’ve ever done in Ireland.

Climbing Croagh Patrick: Some quick need-to-knows

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

The hike, as you can imagine, is steep – your legs will be burning, but you expect this with a mountain like Croagh Patrick.

However, when you start to get close to the summit, things get much trickier. The ground is extremely loose which makes getting a solid footing no mean feat.

This is where the essentials (listed below) come in handy. If you have a low level of fitness or if you’re unsteady on your feet, you should consider giving this hike a miss.

First timer tips for the Croagh Patrick climb

croagh patrick
The view from Croagh Patrick: Photo by Gareth McCormack

Below, you’ll find a clatter of different tips for the Croagh Patrick climb. They include everything from what to bring with you to what to wear.

In particular, pay close attention to the weather section and the packing essentials (don’t just arrive at the mountain empty-handed!).

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. Croagh Patrick weather info 

croagh patrick
Climbing Croagh Patrick: Photo by Gareth McCormack

When we were planning our trip, I used yr.no to get as much info on Croagh Patrick weather conditions as far in advance as possible.

We were hoping for a clear day as the view from the top out over Clew Bay is one of the best in Ireland. By sheer luck, the sun was blazing.

If you’re planning a visit, knowing what the weather will be like in advance is essential.

Related read: Check out our detailed guide to 19 of the best things to do in Mayo (it’s packed with hikes, walks and hidden gems).

3. The essentials for climbing Croagh Patrick

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

Right, this probably sounds obvious – but packing enough water is an absolute must. We climbed it on one of the hottest days of the summer and ended up having to introduce rationing methods to stop us from draining the bottles dry after ten minutes…

Make sure you’ve some snacks packed for your Croagh Patrick hike. I stuffed a little bag of almonds into my pocket along with a banana, which did the job. You’ll see plenty of people with sandwiches and flasks of tea.

Now, carrying a banana in your pocket may seem a bit awkward, but let me tell you, it’s about fifty times more awkward than it sounds. We forgot to bring a rucksack which meant carrying everything. Not only is this a pain but it’s also pretty dangerous.

4. What to wear on the day

sitting on croagh patrick
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The gear you wear will, of course, be decided by the delightfully temperamental Irish weather. We had an absolute scorcher of a day when we were climbing Croagh Patrick, as you can see above, so a t-shirt and shorts did the business.

In hindsight, we would have swapped out the runners for something a bit sturdier. Ideally, you’d want to set-off on the climb in a pair of hiking boots but we had to improvise.

The one thing you’ll realise pretty quickly is that the stone underfoot from the top to the bottom of Croagh Patrick is incredibly loose – so the more grip the better.

Related read: Staying nearby? Check out our guide to 11 of the best things to do in Westport (adventure centres, kayaking, beaches and more!).

5. Aid your climb with a stick

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

I’ll be honest – dodgy back or not, I wasn’t gone on the idea of renting a stick for our Croagh Patrick hike, but this was an absolute lifesaver.

You can rent them from a bloke in a little hut in the car park for around four euro (you get one fifty back if memory serves correct).

They’re dead handy on the way up and make things an awful lot easier on the way down. Just don’t be tempted to whack someone with it. Funny enough, we still have these sticks. A nice little souvenir.

6. Admire the views but be alert

the view from croagh patrick
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Once you start to get stuck into your hike, you’ll realise that climbing Croagh Patrick isn’t as straightforward as just, well, just climbing.

The severely loose stone underfoot makes sections of the ascent and descent like walking on butter.

You’ll find that the ground beneath you moves and slides at random, making staying on your feet no easy task at times. Stay alert and move at your own pace.

It’s most difficult as you begin your final climb towards the summit.

7. Prepare to eat humble pie

CROAGH PATRICK HALF WAY POINT
Halfway up. Legs on fire!

On our way up and down we came across kids and old (and I mean old) men and women absolutely flying up and down the mountain.

As I struggled up the first section, sun cream and sweat half blinding me, a kid that could have been no more than nine and a woman on the tail-end of sixty blazed by me.

Watch on in admiration and continue to take it at your own pace. The last thing you need at 2,000 feet is a twisted ankle.

8. Have a chat with your fellow climbers

the view from croagh Patrick
Photo by Gareth McCormack

It’s impossible not to get stuck into conversation at one point or another as you collectively battle through fatigue and cramp your way to the top.

It could be as insignificant as a shout of encouragement or an exchange of thanks after offering a helping hand to a fallen climber, but it could end up being so much more.

Chat with others as you climb Croagh Patrick. It’ll make the journey all the more enjoyable.

9. Don’t be afraid to take a minute to recoup

croagh patrick
Photo by Gareth McCormack

There’s no shame in resting. My legs felt like they were hanging off after the first ten minutes. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.

As you ascend and descend you’ll see people catching a breather. Sit back, take a gulp of water and soak up the beauty that surrounds you.

10. Bask in the buzz of reaching the top

Clew bay mayo
Clew Bay from above

There’s an immense sense of achievement when you climb Croagh Patrick and reach the top.

You battled your way up it over the course of a few hours and the view out over Clew Bay (if it’s a clear day…) will make it all worthwhile.

Kick back, take the weight off your weary legs and soak up the view!

11. Take a moment to consider the history of the summit

The Church at the summit of croagh patrick
The Church at the summit

Good God that picture is bad! Anyway… 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.

I’d just love to know how they had the energy to build it after the hike to the top with the materials they used for its construction.

12. Be vigilant on the way down

the top of croagh patrick
Exhausted but happy!

The journey back down the mountain can be dangerous – make no mistake about it. The stones 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.

12. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate.

guinness mayo
Post hike pints

As you finally hit the tarmac of the car park you’ll feel another immense sense of achievement (I did, anyway).

There’s a lovely little pub just outside the car park where you can grab a victory pint and a bite to eat.

FAQs about the Croagh Patrick Walk

This guide was published a couple of years back (it’s been updated since). Over the years, we’ve had a clatter of emails asking about the hike.

I’ve popped in 3 of the most frequently asked questions that we receive around climbing the Reek below.

Getting 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.

How long to climb Croagh Patrick

it took us roughly 3 and a half hours to get to the top and back down. It was around 2 and a half hours to the top.

Where to stay near Croagh Patrick

If you’re only in the area for the hike and just after a place to as close to the mountain as possible, then Croagh Patrick Hostel and Cottages is a good shout.

It’s a handy 5-10 minute walk (info here).

Personally, I’d climb it in the morning, chill in the late afternoon and then spend the night in Westport, and have a decent feed and a few pints in one of the many solid pubs the town has to offer.

Things to do near Croagh Patrick

Things to do in Mayo Downpatrick head
Photo by Gareth McCormack

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.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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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