Best known for its association with Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, who is said to have fasted for 40 days at the summit in 441AD, Croagh Patrick has been a pilgrimage destination since pre-Christian times.
Long before Saint Patrick’s arrival, the mountain was known by its ancient name of Cruchán Aigli, deriving from Cruach as a variant of ‘rick’ or ‘reek’, a reference to its distinctive conical shape. Hence, the mountain common local name, The Reek, spans the millennia. It was not until the 10th century that it became known for its link to Saint Patrick, taking the name Cruach Phádraig, and subsequently the anglicised version, Croagh Patrick.
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, whose feast day is celebrated every 17 March. Little is known about the figure, but according to Irish folklore, he was probably born in Wales around 387 before being kidnapped and stolen by Irish pirates during a raid to be an enslaved pig and sheep herder in Ireland. Legend has it that he was 14-years-old when he was stolen and taken to Slemish Mountain, where he remained until he turned 20 and was finally returned home by some kind sailors.