How to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by climbing Ireland’s holiest mountain

Today marks St Patrick’s Day.

Normally I’d be raising a glass of the black stuff to celebrate. But, like everything else, it looks be a bit different this year with Visit Ireland live streaming the craic via YouTube.

But, pre Covid, I had celebrated the big day in the west of Ireland, joining walking guide Ged Dowling to climb Croagh Patrick, the holy Irish mountain towering over County Mayo.

I had gone to discover why some 120,000 people hike the treacherous trail to the summit each year, and to learn more about the man behind the folklore-shrouded myth of St Patrick with which is it so closely associated.

Patrick spent 40 days and 40 nights atop the summit of Croagh Patrick in 441AD, fasting, praying and communing with God in a lonely vigil, which established this formerly pagan peak as the new summit of Irish spirituality.

Ever since, the annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage for St Patrick’s Day has felt like walking in his holy footsteps.

“Croagh Patrick was revered as a place of ancient spirituality long before Patrick was in town,” says Ged. “To me, it feels reassuring — like visiting an old friend.”

Read the feature in full via Independent Travel

See also Terra Firma Ireland

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