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New Croagh Patrick pilgrim path opens after three years

A pathway running from the base to the summit of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo has been officially opened after the completion of a three-year building project carried out by hand.

Thousands of tonnes of rock and soil were removed from the Reek to make it safe and accessible, as well as protecting the mountain.

The 4km pilgrim path runs from the statue of St Patrick near the base of the mountain to the church at the top of the Reek.

It marks the culmination of years of hard, physical labour by a team of people who made hundreds of climbs in all weathers over the past few years.

They have now achieved what many considered an impossible task – the building of a two metre wide path all the way to the top of Ireland’s ‘holy mountain’.

Five men living locally worked on the Croagh Patrick path team (Pic: Climb the Reek)

There have been ongoing concerns about the condition of Croagh Patrick and the safety of the original pathway which had worn down considerably over the years.

The team moved thousands of tonnes of stone and almost as much soil to build the path using only materials found on the Reek.

The team of five men living locally headed up the Croagh Patrick path team.

Frank McMahon, Tulio d’Jesus, Bernard Burke, David Doyle worked under the expert mentorship of Matt McConway.

They created a You Tube channel called Climb The Reek to record their three year journey.

The new pilgrim path taking shape on Croagh Patrick (Pic: Climb the Reek)

Finding the right stones on the mountain was a challenging task with as many as up to 20 in a step towards the cone of the mountain.

The Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group was formed in 2015 to address the erosion of the existing pathway and help protect the natural environment and habitats on the mountain.

Among the stakeholders are the local Murrisk community, Mayo County Council, the Department for Rural and Community Development, the Catholic Church, South West Mayo Development Company, Mountaineering Ireland, Mayo Mountain Rescue, the Croagh Patrick Archaeological Society and Leave No Trace Ambassadors, who inform walkers about the project and educate them in Leave No Trace principles.

The pilgrim path winding its way up Croagh Patrick (Pic: Climb the Reek)

The project was titled ‘Towards the Healing of Croagh Patrick’ and these stone steps were laid to protect the ‘Holy Mountain’.

Tens of thousands of people climb Croagh Patrick annually and Reek Sunday on the last week in July is the most popular date on the calendar for pilgrims.

The accessible new pathway will undoubtedly attract even greater numbers this year.

The pilgrim path under construction on Croagh Patrick (Pic: Climb the Reek)

The total spend on the project was around €600,000 with 80% of the funding provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development and the remaining 20% by Mayo County Council.

Later this evening, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will lay a stone to mark the official opening of the Croagh Patrick pathway.

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