A County Mayo track, the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail starts in the town of Balla and finishes at Murrisk, a village on the shores of Clew Bay and at the base of Croagh Patrick, Mayo’s holy mountain, or ‘the Reek’ as it is affectionally called. Traditionally walked from east to west the trail is 61 km long and typically takes three days to complete although it can also be split into one-day sections. Classed as moderate, the trail is mainly low level although there is a high point of 310 m in the foothills of Croagh Patrick and the terrain is a mix of roads, bog paths, and forest tracks. The trail does not incorporate the ascent of Croagh Patrick, but, if time permits, this 7 km ascent is worthwhile; the view from the forbidding peak over the mountains of County Mayo, Clew Bay and the islands of Inishturk and Clare may just be one of Ireland’s best. Along its way the trail passes through deciduous woodlands and raised bogs, it crosses undulating fields and uses bog roads and ancient paths; the scenery in this rural part of West Mayo is simply beautiful.
As well as its captivating scenery, there are many outstanding heritage sites to discover along the way, such as ruins of old churches, castles and a mill, an Abbey, ancient graveyards, and ring forts. This area has a rich history and one that is entwined with Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. It was on the summit of Croagh Patrick that Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days way back in 441 AD and even today the mountain is known for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honor of him. This occurs each year on the last Sunday of July and attracts around 25 000 pilgrims. Long before Saint Patrick though the mountain has been a pagan pilgrimage route, maybe as far back as 3000 BC.
The best time to walk the trail is from spring to autumn, when the weather should be brighter, warmer, and more settled, the driest months are generally June, July, and August, although it can still be wet and windy in this wild corner of the country, so be prepared. An annual walking festival is held here in March so the trail does get rather crowded at this time. Accommodation on the trail is mainly B&Bs especially on the east side of the walk. There are several hostels and 1 campsite but these are mainly in the west, around Murrisk as are the hotels. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.