For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Croagh Patrick (2)

As is the case with so many Christianly annexed sacred sites, Croagh Patrick was held in numinous regard long before the arrival of Christianity. In Celtic times the mountain was believed to be the home of the deity, Crom Dubh. And during the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa, traditionally held around 1st August, women would sleep on the summit to encourage fertility.




It's said that St Patrick made the ascent at festival time in 441 AD. He's supposed to have fasted on the top for 40 days and, from there, banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. It's certainly true there are no snakes in Ireland, but I'm sure there's a more down-to-earth, a more evolutionary or geographical reason ... (No snakes in New Zealand either, Kiwi Nomad!)

On the last Sunday in July, known as 'Reek Sunday' - it's approaching soon if anyone fancies it - tens of thousands of pilgrims make the trek to the summit as an act of penance. Or to scratch a superstitious itch. Or even just to enjoy a good day out. Who knows or cares? I think you can layer the ascent with as many meanings and motives as you wish, and that's wonderful. Myself, I love the religious, mystical, traditional import and history of this shapely peak. But I've nothing against the climb as a good walk either, for, as walks go, it's a very fine one ...




At the foot of the final slog up the loose scree slope of the mountain proper, there's the first of three pilgrimage stations ...




Looking south east towards the Partry mountains. (Note the extensive area of peat digging ...)




It's fabulous high up here, though the path can obviously be a bit of a pilgrim motorway. But I climbed  late in the afternoon, when most walkers and pilgrims were coming down, so most of the time I had the place to myself. Which is bliss, of course, for a Solitary Walker ...




Wow, those views are terrific, don't you think ..?


7 comments:

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

You make it all sound like a walk in the park Robert, but I found that final scree slope rather difficult!!!
New Zealand has no snakes now for sure, but there is a small bit of fossil evidence that we may have once had things like crocodiles and perhaps snakes. We split from Oz 80 million years ago, and I think a few snakes were around then, though not in great profusion.

ksam said...

Good enough to be giving me goosebumps!

George said...

More great photos, Robert! The views from the summit are fantastic. It seems that you were able to pack in quite a bit of rambling during your trip to Ireland.

Ruth said...

I've seen high peaks in Ireland, but never from the top. Just magnificent!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I was so lucky with the weather.

Yes, Kiwi - that last push to the top was a little challenging, it's true! Specially on the way down - and I didn't have walking poles. Was very careful - worried about slipping on the loose scree.

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Ahhh I never had a walking pole either, though an elderly man who dropped me at the village told me I would need one. Luckily, the father of a family gave me one as I was beginning the scree slope. In turn I gave it away as I reached the bottom of the scree on my descent. I saw that family again at Knock the next day, and one of the children remembered I was the lady her Dad gave the stick to. It was a nice moment: she was clearly proud of her Dad, and glad he had shared his stick.

The Solitary Walker said...

Sweet story, Kiwi! Thanks so much for that.