Tóchar Pádraig is a walkway that leads from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. This old pilgrim road stretches c.35 km across mid-Mayo on a route that is both cross-country and on quite rural roads. Annually, Ballintubber Abbey organises four group walks during the summer months.
The starting point is the abbey where an introduction to the pilgrimage given. Some people arrive in groups and others independently. During the day people, through chat and travelling together, will get to know each other better, leading to the emergence of camaraderie
The tóchar is an historical route way which served an important land-based transport system in ancient and medieval times. They were particularly associated with pilgrimages and ecclesiastical foundations. It is speculated that Tóchar Phádraig is based on an earlier route from Cruachain, Roscommon; the seat of the Kings of Connacht to Croagh Patrick, which itself is a site of ancient ritual activity.
The route meanders through the landscape, as we move in meadows, walk along ridges and navigate boggy areas. The removal from the everyday is most definitely expressed in the cross-country sections where soft paths carry us away from the world through quiet patches of nature. Even the on-road sections can be very sedate with little traffic coming by. This withdrawing from the rest of the world and our own lives is a central part of pilgrimage. The landscape itself is central to the creation of this liminality.
Only a few climb to the actual summit of Croagh Patrick, as it is an extra undertaking: the main part of the pilgrimage is the route itself, in doing this you have completed the pilgrimage.
“Reminding yourself that life is a journey not a destination, you now let slow motion time drift past on diaphanous wings while you absorb the timeless sensations and colours of the Mayo countryside.” John O’Dwyer, Pilgrim Trail, The Irish Times, Jul 14, 2012.