Ireland is a country known for religion. Many town and place names have a connection to the religious, and the island is dotted with historical religious sites. One of the most famous and celebrated Saint in the world, St. Patrick, is the patron saint of our small isle. It almost goes without saying that Ireland is dotted with pilgrim walks and sites.
Croagh Patrick is the most famous pilgrimage in Ireland. Following a tradition that is roughly 5,000 years old, thousands of pilgrims climb the mountain on the last Sunday of July each year People traditionally hiked up barefoot, and many people observe this practice today as an act of penance. At approx 760m (2,500ft) tall, the pilgrimage is nothing to be scoffed at.
It’s undertaken in honour of St. Patrick, who allegedly spent 40 days at the summit, fasting the entire time. It was also from here that he banished all of the snakes from Ireland. Legend goes that he chased them all into the sea after they attacked and pestered him while he fasted on the mountain top.
St Kevin’s Way
St. Kevin’s Way, in County Wicklow, follows St. Kevin’s footsteps into the valley of Glendalough. It was here that he set up a monastery, surrounded by nature, peace and tranquility. Following his death, his small monastic base grew and attracted people from all over Europe. It was because of this that St. Kevin’s pilgrimage was established.
The valley of Glendalough is now famous, and it attracts people from all over the world. The valley is certainly a sight to behold, but the pilgrimage path is often quiet as most simply visit by car.
Derrynane Mass Path
In olden times in Ireland, Catholic mass was illegal under British rule. Catholic priests could be sentences to death for saying mass, and so it was often done in secret. Mass paths were formed, where people from the community would travel and meet at a discreet location to hold mass at a ‘mass rock’.
The Derrynane Mass Path was used by residents of Caherdaniel, with many people rowing in from the island to attend mass.
The Kerry Camino, modelled after the Camino de Santiago, is a pilgrimage in County Kerry that connects Tralee and Dingle. The 3-day hike follows in the footsteps of St. Brendan along the Dingle Way. There is beautiful scenery the entire way along the hike, taking in mountains and coastlines alike.
Small villages dot the way, where you can stop, rest, and chat with the locals. Stations are also frequently placed along the Kerry Camino so that you can validate your hike, much like the Camino de Santiago. The end point of the hike is St. James’ church in Dingle, and it is here that you can get your certificate of completion.