Croagh Patrick from Old Head
Louisburgh is a small town on the shores of the stunning Clew Bay and was founded in 1795 by the 3rd Earl of Altamount, John Denis Browne of Westport as a refuge for Catholics escape sectarian violence in Ulster. Nestled under the both Mweelrea Mountain and Croagh Patrick, it is one of the most scenic areas in Ireland.
The area around Louisburgh has long been associated with Grace O’Malley or ‘Granuaile, the Priate Queen’ who ruled the waters of Clew Bay nearly 500 years ago. Born in 1530 Grace was the Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan and was to become one of the most feared pirates in 16th century Ireland. With her fleet of captured ships and army of over 200 men Granuaile’s exploits at sea were legendary. Her insistence of extracting ‘maintenance’ on all shipping that passed through Clew Bay made her an arch enemy of Elizabeth 1st. Indeed Grace’s appetite for war and rebellion in general proved to be a constant thorn in the side of the English ruler and her Irish plantation policy.
Ireland’s Holy Mountain Croagh Patrick, also known as ‘The Reek’, dominates the right of this photograph. The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to The Reek is said to stretch back over 5,000 years without interruption with pagans being thought to have gathered here to celebrate the beginning of harvest season. It’s more modern religious association is of course with St Patrick and on ‘Reek Sunday’, the last Sunday in July every year, over 15,000 often barefoot pilgrims climb to its summit.
Croagh Patrick forms part of a U-shaped valley created by a glacier flowing into Clew Bay during the last Ice Age and is part of a longer east-west ridge with Ben Gorm forming the most western peak.