At this point pilgrims used the well to wash their feet after the journey to Croagh Patrick. Stones were heated and placed in the water to keep it warm. The name comes from the Irish Dabhac an Chora meaning ‘Bath of the Righteous’.
A t the townland of Cullentragh is a crossroads overlapping a section of the Tochar Padraig. During famine times local people would do any work to provide for their families, often being paid in oatmeal as a substitute for money. Consequently the roads they worked on became known as ‘Stirabout Roads’.
The remains of several vernacular cottages are located here, up on a hill at the townland of Cullentragh. Used during famine times up to late 19th Century, there could be up to three or four families in each cottage. Features can be seen in these ruins, such as the ‘cailleach’, where the grandmother slept.
Referred to as the ‘Old Mill’, the building is located on the river Aille. The mill was built in the 19th century by Lord Avonmore and was used for grinding corn or milling flour. The mill was forced to close due to a dispute between Avonmore and another local landlord Lord Lynch Bosse. The dispute was over who owned the land either side of the river. Even building a canal to the mill was not able to supply water to the mill and it consequently became abandoned.
Crannogs are man-
During the time of the Celts, cattle were the main unit of currency and therefore were very valuable. Cattle were often stolen in cattle raids and crannogs were one method of cattle protection.
Charles Crotty was a landlord who purchased an 1808 acre estate in April 1852 and by September had evicted 44 families. He was widely disliked for this. He also divided land up into small parcels making it difficult for tenants to make a living.
There were many attempts on his life. He was once shot in the eye by a Newport man commissioned for the job and nearly died. In 1858 an RIC barracks was built near Crotty’s house to protect him.
When he finally died the locals ransacked his house and stuffed potatoes into his mouth, a legend persists that his ghost haunts the house.
The Aille River extends throughout Mayo and is noted for its underground route. Coming from the Partry Mountains it disappears into the cave at Aille, re-
Just off the trail is the ruin of Templeshaunaglasha, or ‘Church of John of the Dykes’. This was an old church in Ballybourke that has not been used since 1562. Only a partial wall remains, the walls were originally nearly one metre thick. The church had covered a space of 18 by 5 metres. It was possible that this was a resting place for pilgrims on the original Tóchar Pádraig. There is a Killeen surrounding the church giving the location another name, ‘Kileendirimh’, or ‘the little graveyard or church of the wastes’.
Ballybourke Castle is situated just beyond the Aille River and Pollatomarry Cave. Built by the deBurgos, a Norman family, it is said to have been situated in a straight line with two other castles -
This was formed due to the roof cave collapsing, some parts collapsing around 1959. If you follow it around to the left you come to the Aille cliffs and caves. During periods of rain the water rises, making entrance to the cave dangerous.
According to the annals of Loch Ce, in 1063 CE, 160 people were hiding in the caves for safety and were suffocated-
In the early 1800s people from the north of England came to Mayo to work in the flax industry, which was used in the production of linen. This church was established for those workers in 1828 to accommodate the large numbers of Anglicans who came here. Only a small part of the church remains. A two storey school was attached to it to educate the children of workers. Catholic children were forced to attend.
This church ruin is said to have been erected by St Patrick. Called Teampall na bhFiachal, or ‘the Church of the Teeth’. It gets its name from a line of rocks resembling teeth, visible from the church. The remains of the church reveal that the church was built after the arrival of St Patrick. Local legend says however, the church was built on the site of a smaller structure, local folklore also says the bell from the original structure lies under the surrounding bog.
The founder of the church is said to be St Senach, the Bishop of Aughagower who lived in the 7th Century CE.
Inside the ruined Abbey there is carved head engraved on the window facing the old graveyard across the road. It may be there to keep a watchful eye over the altar, which would have stood below the window.
Built between 973 and 1013 it is difficult to estimate how tall the tower once stood. It was damaged by a lightning strike in the mid 1800s. The capstone is supposed to have landed on a nearby hill. Folklore says that a woman found the capstone and carried it in her apron back to the village. The capstone is now in the courtyard next to the statue of St Patrick. The bell is reputedly buried in a nearby bog, and can sometimes be heard ringing.
In the late 1960s there was an attempt to restore the north side of the tower. The restoration was not skilfully done and consequently the tower is slightly slanted to the north. A door was added to allow access. Round towers were primarily bell towers however, there is evidence here of an attempt to burn out occupants of the tower at some point.
Also known as ‘St Patrick’s Vat’ or Dabhac Phadraig, this is said to be where St Patrick baptised the first converts. Under the well there is a drain connecting the well to the Well of the Deacons across the road. Growing inside the wall of the well is an ancient tree and it is said that the soil and rotting wood around the tree have healing properties, however, it was necessary to return the soil to the base of the tree when healing was complete.
On the Wall of St. Patricks Vat is a figure known as a Sheela na Gig (also spelt Sheila Na Gig), this a stone carving depicting a naked woman exposing her genitals, these are generally found on old Churches, there is much debate amongst experts as to their origin and purpose. One theory is that they were medieval 12th century figures associated mainly with Norman churches and Abbeys and because of this representation they were said to be a warning against lust and sinfulness. Another theory is that they were pre -
This Station at Aughagower began at Leaba Phadraig, “Patrick’s Bed”, lying west of the tower at the base of a tree. Prayers are recited seven times and the pilgrim continues to each well in turn and recites the prayers again as they walk around the well.
The tree over-
This standing stone is 7ft high, on the west face is a cross with a V-
The name Lankill itself is translated into Irish as Lainn Cille (Land of the Church). Joyce in his Names of Places said ‘The word Lann is Irish but in its ecclesiastical application it was borrowed from Welsh. The purpose of standing stones is unclear; some are thought to be boundary/territorial markers, ritual or ceremonial sites, possible burial sites or part of an astrological alignment.
Translated as ‘Patrick’s Stone’ this is one of many stones located along the Trail. These stones can be seen as playing multiple purposes, having both historical and religious roles. They have also been interpreted as having connections with ‘ley lines’, monuments were aligned on lines of spiritual energy which cover the earth. A simpler explanation is that they were erected to create a path to Croagh Patrick.
Also known as potato ridges these are physical remains of the Great Famine that began in 1845, causing nearly ten years of starvation, disease and emigration. Land holdings were very small, due to unscrupulous landlords, 62% of families had one to fifteen acres each to cultivate.
During British occupation the landlords required tenants grow crops for export on the good land, the Irish were forced to utilise poorer soils. The potato was the only suitable crop. Potato blight swept the country causing crops to fail and subsequently starvation, especially in the West.
Neolithic Art Carvings consisting of Cup and Ringmarks. Known locally as St. Patrick’s Chair, this large natural outcrop of rock is on the eastern approach to Croagh Patrick. The Boheh stone is almost totally covered in carvings, consisting primarily of cupmarks many enclosed by one or more circles, there are also several patterns known as keyhole motifs, a style of art dating from the Bronze Age.
In 1991 local historian Gerry Bracken (R.I.P.) discovered a unique event now known as ‘The Rolling Sun’, Seen from the rock, the sun appears to set on the summit of Croagh Patrick and then proceeds to roll down the right hand (northern) slope of the mountain. This event occurs biennially at the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox, marking obviously important sowing and harvesting times of the prehistoric era.
Brackloon Wood is an oak woodland of c74 hectares dominated by sessile oak. Legend has it that King Conor Mac Neasa and his Red Branch Knights rode along this secluded road winding its way through the hills and woods to the coast.
In 1998 there was extensive research carried out in the Brackloon area to identify distinctive stages in vegetation development since the last ice age. Evidence from fossil pollen found at Brackloon Lake suggests tall shrubs and open woodland of birch and willow were flourishing here from 9000BCE. From 7000BCE to 4,500BCE the expansion of deciduous woodland such as hazel, elm, oak and birch became more prevalent. It was not until c.1200BCE that humans impacted on this environment, this is evident by the decline in elm, oak and alder. This coincides with evidence of an increase in human activity in the greater Clew Bay area. In the 16th and 17th century a large scale clearance began, mainly for export as timber and for charcoal production.
During the time of British occupation, much of the woodland was cut down and exported to Britain. The oak docks in Liverpool were one such project built using timber from Brackloon.
This large enclosure is in a partly wooded area close to Prospect House. The enclosing earthen bank is stone faced at intervals with a flat ledge outside the bank on the North West to North East sector.
The interior contains a circular stone enclosure and the low foundations of an early Christian church, located within a slightly elevated ancient burial area. Graves are marked by stones or simple grave markers. Close to the church is a bullaun stone (used as an ancient holy water font) with a hollowed out section.
On the eastern side of the church, a raised stone cairn may have been used as an altar or a grave. The church and burial ground are enclosed by a later graveyard wall, this was built to contain the remains of the Buchanan family who owned nearby Prospect House. The last burial here dates from the 1950s.
This Deerpark is called Deerpark West; it is a rectangular shaped townland and was surrounded by a well-
This Deerpark was probably part of the Westport House estate, the first house being built c.1650 possibly on the site of a previous castle. Deerparks were a common medieval feature, introduced to Ireland by the Normans sometime around the 1300s along with rabbits and fallow deer. Most counties in Ireland had one at some time.
Though not directly on the trail, one archaeological location in Murrisk includes the following interesting Bronze Age feature, near the base of Croagh Patrick on the eastern shore of Clew Bay.
Five large stones lay directly in alignment with the sun as it comes down into a niche on the eastern shoulder of Croagh Patrick. This happens on the Winter Solstice on December 21st. Other features here suggest this was a major ceremonial site, there are more stones surrounded by a large enclosure.
Folk tales associate the site with Queen Maeve, the Celtic queen of the West of Ireland.
This Monument was unveiled in July 1997 by then President of Ireland Mary Robinson, it was created by Dublin born Sculptor John Behan (born 1938).
Cast in bronze, it depicts a coffin ship, the sails of which are fashioned like skeletons, representing the terrible, deadly plight of the famine stricken people from the time. In 2001 a similar monument was unveiled in New York close to the United Nations, on that ship is a plank depicting survivors entering America.
This Abbey was founded by Fr. Hugh O’ Malley in 1457 after receiving the land from the local chieftain (said to be a grandfather to Grainnuaile). Fr. Hugh had sought permission to establish a Friary from Pope Callistus the 3rd for the Canon Regulars of St. Augustine (Augustinians), it was later dedicated to St. Patrick.
In 1578 the land was leased to James Garvey, who was a brother to the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Armagh. From then until the 1800s little is known of the friars attached to the friary but it is known they suffered persecution. It is believed some of them relocated to the friary in Ballyhaunis when Murrisk friary ceased to function. One such friar, namely Fr. Myles Prendergast, had to spend many years on the run in the Clifden area. Although the friars were not in residence in the Friary there is evidence to suggest some were sheltered in the area by locals and administered to their flock. A chalice, now in Tuam, has the following inscription: ‘Pray for the souls of Theobald, Lord Viscount Mayo and his wife Maeve ni Cnochoure who had me made for the monastery of Murrisk in the year of our Lord 1635’.
One Fr. Philip Staunton appears to have been the last monk in Murrisk and later died in Ballintubber.
Croagh Patrick has been associated with ritual focus for thousands of years and still is today. Unique in an Irish and European context, there is the physical evidence of both a major later-
The View of Clew Bay can be seen right along the trail before arriving at the trail end at the base of Croagh Patrick. According to local tradition there are 365 islands in Clew Bay, one for each day of the year, however there are only 117.
The islands are a result of glaciation and are known as drumlins, formed over 10,000 years ago when the last Ice Age ended. Some of the islands are occupied, however most are uninhabited. Dorinish Mor was bought by Beatle John Lennon in 1967 and is one of the better known islands.
Beside the Abbey, St Patrick is said to have founded a church on the return of his long journey of 40 days and nights on the summit of Croagh Patrick. Ballintubber gets its name from the Irish Baile an Tobair or the Town of the Well. The patron saint of Ireland is said to have baptised converts here over 1500 years ago. It can be said a church has occupied this site for this length of time.
Sean na Sagart (real name John Maloney) was a legendary priest hunter who frequented the valley in penal times. He collected a bounty for each priest’s head he collected and tossed into Lough na gCeann, the ‘Lake of Heads’. His last journey was through Killawalla and he is buried at Ballintubber Abbey where a large tree marks his grave to this day.