Ballintubber Abbey in Co. Mayo is a major tourist attraction attracting thousands of visitors every year. Because of its unique history and its location along an iconic and ancient pilgrim path that links the Abbey with Croagh Patrick (Irelands sacred Mountain) the Abbey and its connections hold great potential as a visitor attraction of scale and significance in cultural, historical and spiritual tourism terms.
Ballintubber Abbey has become the hub of the “Irish Camino”, the five Irish medieval pilgrim paths that are being promoted and marketed as the “Irish Camino”.
From Ballintubber Abbey stretching out to Croagh Patrick is Tóchar Phádraig, the ancient pilgrim path. Walkers can register at Ballintubber Abbey to walk the route (with a minimum of one other person). Guided group walks often take place throughout the year.
Originally the Tóchar Phádraig was the chariot road that went from Rathcruachan, the seat of the Kings and Queens of Connacht, to Aughagower and Cruachan Aille, as Croagh Patrick was called in Pre-Christian times.
After St Patrick’s time pilgrims began to traverse that same road to the holy mountain and over time it became known as Tóchar Phádraig or St Patrick’s Causeway.
After the pilgrimages to Jerusalem ceased in the C13th due to the taking over of the Holy Places by the Saracens, the pilgrimages to Croagh Patrick became even more important. When Ballintubber Abbey was built in 1216 a hostel was also put in place to cater for the many pilgrims. This hostel, the remains of which can be seen today in the grounds, incorporated a place for both ritual washing and actual cleansing. It is called Danchora or the ‘Bath of the righteous’.
After 1588 it went into decline as a public road and in Penal times it ceased to be used as a pilgrim path. In 1987 it was restored and every year hundreds of pilgrims walk Tóchar Phádraig on pilgrimage – a distance of 22 miles (35km)