Croagh Patrick, Castlebar
Standing like a huge pyramid, Croagh Patrick or 'The Reek' as it is known locally, is more than just a mountain. Croagh Patrick is the home of old pagan gods and a saint. The gods were pre-Christian and the saint was Saint Patrick.
Patrick, who was probably a Frenchman, though some claim him from Wales, had been brought as a child to Ireland where as a slave, he was set to watch sheep on a northern mountain called Sliabh Mis. Having escaped from slavery, he went back to the continent and after some years at Avignon he went to Rome where he was ordained. Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 to convert the Irish from their worship of the old pagan gods, their faith in the Druids and the Gods of the elements.
Legend has it, that it was upon Croagh Patrick that he banished all the snakes and demons, all the old gods and spirits.
The Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick, written around the tenth century, tells us that Patrick fasted and prayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
For another fifteen hundred years Croagh Patrick stood undisturbed, then in the late nineteen-eighties an exploration company discovered gold in the quartz/veined rock that is Croagh Patrick. It was estimated that the richness of ore would yield half an ounce of gold per crushed ton. It was proposed to initially remove and crush 700,000 tons of the mountain.
There was outcry at the suggestion that the Holy Mountain should be mined, not just on religious grounds but also from environmental considerations. The use of cyanide, the crushing process and large quantities of spoil would without doubt have a detrimental effect on one of the most pristine and beautiful locations in Ireland.
After a tough battle and against the odds the developers were finally sent on their way. In 1990 the then minister for Energy decided not to renew the exploration licence.
West of Castlebar lies Westport, and west of Westport lies the mighty mountain Croagh Patrick. It can be seen from afar.
On this mountain, St. Patrick is said to have ordered all snakes to leave the island (and to this date, there are no snakes in Ireland).
Every year many people make the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick and climb the mountain barefoot or even on their knees...
Sadly, every year there are also reports of injuries - people falling of the mountain during the steep descent... So take care!