A sleepy-looking village, it is a special and important heritage site. On the last Sunday of every July its population swells to accommodate thousands of walkers from all over the country and further afield for the annual pilgrimage to the top of the holy mountain, in the steps of St. Patrick who fasted at the summit for forty days in 441 AD.
While July sees the largest single group of climbers, the mountain and in turn, the village is rarely without a steady stream of walking enthusiasts. Locals and visitors alike climb, run and even cycle on the mountain year-round. Some reach the summit, while others stop along the way, rest a while and contemplate the spectacular beauty of the bay, mountains and islands.
Another pilgrim’s route culminates in Murrisk. It is known as Tochar Phadraig, which begins in Ballintubber and ends at the foot of the Reek, as Croagh Patrick is locally known. Welcome relief after the 35km walk comes in the form of showers and refreshments at Teach na Miasa, which means ‘house of the dishes’--so named for the Augustinian monks from nearby Murrisk Abbey who reputedly washed their crockery in the adjacent stream. Founded in the 1400’s by Pope Callistus for the Augustinians, the abbey is perched on the gently lapping shore and its ruins and maintained graveyard make for a contemplative and interesting hour or two.
Only a minute’s walk away stands Ireland's National Famine Memorial in the 5-acre Millennium Peace Park. The memorial comprises a bronze sculpture of a ship out of which skeletons seem to float upwards, becoming the very sails which propel the ‘Coffin Ship’ which artist John Behan called it to symbolise all the lost lives of the Irish who sailed to America to escape the great famine of 1847. Viewed from the northern side, the ship stands in stark contrast against the fog-encased brown mountain and from the south it is framed by the perfect blue and green of the grass and sea.
Murrisk hosts an annual Pattern Day takes which takes place in late August and the day is packed full of events after mass is celebrated at the Abbey. Some of the events include music and dancing, vintage show, sheep show and sheepdog trials, art and craft displays and children’s entertainment. Campbell’s Museum Pub offers a modern, yet fairly authentic glimpse into a traditional hostelry.
A sparsely populated village, Murrisk is an unmissable, rewarding stop on The Clew Bay Archaeological Trail, which incorporates 21 archaeological sites from Westport through Murrisk and all the way out to Clare Island. To see the entire trail, see: www.clewbaytrail.com.