Background information about the pilgrim way
The Croagh Patrick Pilgrim Heritage Trail is the most famous Catholic place of pilgrimage in Ireland. The hike is some 58 km long. It starts in Balla, County Mayo, and ends in Murrisk, at the foot of Croagh Patrick. About 30.000 pilgrims climb the mountain every year on the last Sunday of July, and the place gets about one million visitors throughout the year.
The hike owes its name to the holy Saint Patrick, who was a Roman-British missionary as well as Bishop of Ireland during the 5th century. As the “Apostle of Ireland“ he is the main patron of the island up until today.
The tour is designed to be walked in three days and is divided into five stages. You can portion these yourself. The way, throughout a historically protected area, is clearly signposted. You will encounter constantly changing vegetation and walk on quiet, narrow streets, past meadows and fields.
Your route from Balla to Murrisk
The trail can be divided into five legs. Starting off in Balla, you walk westwards direction Clogher. Clogher is about eight kilometers away, about two hours walking time. From there, you continue another 12 kilometers to Ballintubber. On this leg of your journey, you walk dirt roads and small country roads, but you will also pass through woods. From Ballintubber to Killavally, about one and a half hours further on, the landscape changes between fields, forests and marshlands. From there, you will be walking the next 16 kilometers on smaller roads, field and forest paths toAghagower. The path then continues behind the village Aghagower towards the N59. You need to stay on the main road for about 250 meters, and then turn onto the trail through theBrackloon Woods. Just before you reach Murrisk, the trail joins with the main path to Croagh Patrick. This will be the end of your hike. Of course, you may want to climb to the top of the mountain.
Where to eat
At the starting point in Balla you can find a good possibility for staying overnight – The Olde Woods guesthouse. In the middle of the idyllic town, the family run accommodation offers six rooms, equipped with TV and Wi-Fi access.
If you prefer a more luxurious accommodation, Green Acres will be the right place for you. The Bungalow lies near Claremorris and Castlebar and has room for up to eight people. Besides a fully equipped kitchen, this accommodation also provides an ideal facility for children. Because of its high up location, the house offers a beautiful view over the surrounding landscape.
- Make sure to bring sturdy footwear on this track. Hiking boots are highly recommended. There are places to buy beverages and food along the track. However it’s always recommended to bring enough water and food along with you.
Highlights of the tour
The route from Balla to Murrisk leads along many historically protected villages and buildings. At your starting point, in the picturesque town Balla, you can see a holy fountain and a round tower from the 7th century. A few kilometers further on lies Loona, a smaller village that still has a touch of early, 5th century Christianity. Next, you will pass Doonamoona Castle. It was built during the 15th century. Today, though, all that is left is the remains of one of its towers.
Another interesting sight is the footprint of Saint Patrick inside a monastery ground. Your next village is Clogher, where you can admire a landmarked cottage with an active forge. The church in Ballintubber, the destination of the second leg, has already existed since 1216. Do not miss the “Church of John of the Dykes“ in Killawalla. Aughagower lies about five kilometers south of Westport and is home to the "Leaba Phádraig", which in the literal translation means something like “St. Patrick's bed“. According to historical tradition, Saint Patrick slept here until about 441.
A true marvel for geologists is the Boheh Stone. The stone tells the dimensions of the Neolithic Bronze Age around 3000 before Christ. The last highlight is at the very end of your hike, in Murrisk – the Croagh Patrick. The mountain, 764 meters high, presents a significant place for pilgrims and is climbed by more than one million people each year.
As the hike is divided into five legs, you can decide for yourself, where to start and where to end. It is of course an option to do the hike in reverse order.
If you are still not tired at the end of your hike, you could extend your tour a little further and climb the peak of Croagh Patrick.
The hike is categorized 'advanced'. A sturdy footwear is especially advisable. In addition, you should pack waterproof gear, some food and do not forget a tent and sleeping bag, if you intend to hike for several days and sleep outdoors.
The nearest airport is the Ireland West Airport Knock Co Mayo near Charlestown. A further possibility is the airport in Dublin.
If you travel via Dublin, first take the M50 and outside the western city centre change onto the M4. When you reach Kinnegad turn onto the M6 and drive towards Athlone. In Athlone, you leave the M6 and follow the N61 and N60, which takes you directly to Balla.
Should you find yourself at Knock Airport, your journey will lead over the N17 southwards. In Claremorris you turn right onto the N60 and follow the road until Balla.
By public transport
Train services between Dublin and Claremorris, Manulla, Castlebar and the Westport Station operate daily.
You also have the option of travelling by bus, as there are daily busses to Claremorris, Westport, Castlebar as well as Balla and Murrisk.