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St Patrick's Way - Pilgrims Walk in Ireland?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Topics' started by kierans, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. kierans

    kierans New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Increasingly the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is attracting more visitors from Ireland and i was wondering if there is any viabilty in trying to promote a St Patrick's Walk in Ireland?
    I’m working on a Northern Ireland Tourist Board /Failte Ireland project which is really a pre-feasibility study into the development of “Patricks Way – The Pilgrims walk (Westport, Co Mayo to Downpatrick, Co. Down). This study is linked to the St Patrick Christian Heritage Signature Project. The aim of the study is to identify the feasibility of developing a walk structured around a potential route taken by St Patrick from the West Coast of Ireland to the East Coast of Northern Ireland. Initially there are 3 proposed sections
    1 Western Section Croagh Patrick, Mayo to Boyle, Roscommon
    2 Middle Section Boyle – Drumshanbo-Ballinamore-Ballyconnell-Belturbet-Clones-Monaghan-Armagh
    3 Armagh-Tandragee-Scarva-Newry-Rostrevor-Newcastle-Downpatrick, Co Down.
    I would be interested in hearing any views on this as an idea – is it a good one? Could it work? What do you think would need to happen?
    Thanks
    Kieran

  2. KiwiNomad06

    KiwiNomad06 Member

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    Kieran,
    I stayed in Westport a couple of years ago, and climbed Croagh Patrick. One difficulty I faced was that there seemed to be only 'patchy' public transport from Westport in the direction of Croagh Patrick, and the only bus the day I hoped to climb did not leave until later in the day.

    I loved that whole area of Ireland very much, but I guess one thing that would hold me back from walking long distance there at present would be that I might need to carry a tent and stay out in it overnight in some rather bad weather conditions. The weather deteriorated once I reached the top of Croagh Patrick, and the climb down became quite difficult, so I guess you could say I have developed a healthy respect for that mountain. I would be unlikely to walk long distance alone in that area as I imagine walkers would not be all that numerous, though I did feel safe doing it in France and Spain because I knew there would be many others on the trail. So I guess someone like me, a solo middle-aged woman walker, is probably not your market.

    I guess some of the reasons the Camino has become so popular is that the signage is clear, there is lots of accommodation, and plenty of cafes/restaurants/shops along the way for food and drink. There were also plenty of others walking, so as solo woman walking, I knew I would not have to wait long for help if I ever needed it. I imagine the season for Croagh Patrick would be quite short, which might make walker 'infrastructure' such as exists on the Camino not so viable.

    Margaret Riordan

  3. Kitsambler

    Kitsambler Jakobsweg Junkie

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    I think you have a good concept here - as usual, the challenge is in the details. This project sounds very much like the Norwegian St Olaf's Way effort, which you can read about elsewhere (wikipedia has some good resources). They started by plotting the route, and getting it marked. As I understand it, the team is now going about addressing the food/lodging infrastructure issues enumerated by Kiwi above. The Norwegians have been at this for several years already, and it looks like they have quite a few left to go. It won't be a fast thing, this Patrick's Way. But worthwhile to pursue. There is a growing market for this type of experience, judging by the ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims on the Compostela routes. With 2010 being a Holy Year, and large crowds anticipated, it might be a wonderful opportunity to do some market research among the walkers. You could post posters in the hostels, route visitors to a web site, run a survey, collect data, build a business model on the numbers.

  4. Bridget and Peter

    Bridget and Peter Member

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    I would be much more likely to do your route than the St Olaf one, not just because we live in England (easier trasport links, same language), but also because the walking would be much less remote and strenuous.

    Yes, as Margaret says, there may not be many other walkers, but Ireland is not an empty wilderness. There would be plenty of villageas and towns with shops, bars, and very friendly people. Ireland is a very safe feeling country.

    Having just walked the Camino Ingles in March, only meeting one other pair of pilgrims (twice) in the four days, and having been rained on a lot, but also enjoying a surprising amount of sunshine too, I guess that Ireland would be quite similar; like Galicia it sticks out into the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream (while it still stays in it's accustomed place) so doesn't do extremes of weather generally (although all mountains, like the Pyrenees, deserve respect), so I would be prepared to walk in Ireland almost all year round, provided I had good wet weather gear!

    Peter and I (and 11 other members of the family) had a sunny week in Ireland in the beginning of May last year. The two of us took our bikes and we had two delightful days cycling on quiet roads, smelling the heady coconut-like scent of the gorse (which I had never noticed before) and stopping at small places for a drink and an icecream.

    I think a St Patrick's pilgrimage route is a really good idea.

    And, tongue in cheek, I believe there is much stronger evidence for St. Paddy in Ireland than St Jimmy in Spain.

    Although I accept that St Bridget is more dubious, and chose to ignore that when I remind people that she was consecrated as a bishop!!! Yea, go Bridget, go....

  5. KiwiNomad06

    KiwiNomad06 Member

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    I'm not sure that the north of Ireland is so similar to Galicia Bridget, as it is at a much higher latitude. I experienced Croagh Patrick on August 8, 2006, so my climb was in the height of the summer season, not too long after "Reek Sunday". The weather was a little overcast to start with, but was basically fine. As I reached the upper part of the climb, which is quite steep and stony and not at all easy to climb, the mist descended and I climbed the rest of the way with ever decreasing visibility. Suddenly I reached the top - an achievement of which I felt justifiably proud. But I wasn't sure I was at the top, as I could barely see anything, and other people huddled by the chapel had to tell me I had indeed reached the summit. It had by now turned quite cold, though Croagh Patrick, by mountain standards, is not all that high- 765m.

    I ate some lunch quickly, as it began to drizzle, then tried to go round the side of the chapel to go inside. I could barely walk that short distance against the wind. In the 10-15 minutes I was eating, the weather had changed dramatically. The climb down the mountain became quite perilous, and at one point I slipped on wet stones, and was actually rolled around on the ground by the wind. I understand entirely why some of the Irish view climbing Croagh Patrick as a penitential experience!

    It certainly was a special experience climbing Croagh Patrick, and I would gladly do it again if I ever had the opportunity, but I would never underestimate the weather in this area, even in midsummer!
    Margaret

  6. Bridget and Peter

    Bridget and Peter Member

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    Fair point, Margaret, I have never climbed Croagh Patrick, and I am sure that it can be nasty, like all mountains, which have their own weather systems.

    But the rest of the route will not be over mountains. Challenged, I have googled what my general knowledge and instinct led me to assert before - see below. It's Galicia not Ireland which mentioned snow in ther general summary - I had to dig further for a suggestion of snow in Ireland!

    I suppose it's because Ireland (and Britain) are surrounded by the sea that we have such a milder climate than other places at the same latitude.

    The point I also wanted to make was that the comparison with Norway wasn't really fair. So now I am going to google the Norwegian climate!! ...
    And I discover that the west coast of Norway has a temperate climate too and it isn't as cold as I thought! But inland is more 'continental' in climate terms!! Well, reading these, I still think I'd be prerpared to walk in Ireland (if not over Croagh Patrick) in March, but not do the St Olaf's Way until later in the year. (Actually, probably not then, because I'm a wimp and I heard a presentation about it and they could only carry 10 teabags (weight again) and I coldn't survive with only 10!)

    NB I'm reading Josie Dew's book Long Cloud Ride about cycling in New Zealand in 2004 when there seems to be daily horizontal downpours (that's when there aren't cyclones) and cows floating away in rivers in spate! And I thought NZ was temperate too!



    Climate of Galicia

    The climate of Galicia is classified as Atlantic, with mild temperatures throughout the year. Although the wettest spots in the Peninsula are probably in Navarra, this is rainiest region of Spain, with well over 1,000mm a year across almost the entire region. The town of Vigo receives, for example, 1909mm. Most years, Galicia is swept by rainy fronts coming in from the Atlantic. Snow falls inland abundantly during the winter, with Los Ancares being one of the snowiest areas in Spain. Maximum summer temperatures are around 20ºC.
    http://www.iberianature.com/material/wi ... nature.htm



    Climate of Ireland


    The dominant influence on Ireland's climate is the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, Ireland does not suffer from the extremes of temperature experienced by many other countries at similar latitude.

    Average annual temperature is about 9 °C. In the middle and east of the country temperatures tend to be somewhat more extreme than in other parts of the country. For example, summer mean daily maximum is about 19 °C and winter mean daily minimum is about 2.5 °C in these areas.

    Mean annual windspeed varies between about 4 m/sec in the east midlands and 7 m/sec in the northwest. Strong winds tend to be more frequent in winter than in summer. Sunshine duration is highest in the southeast of the country. Average rainfall varies between about 800 and 2,800mm.

    With southwesterly winds from the Atlantic dominating, rainfall figures are highest in the northwest, west and southwest of the country, especially over the higher ground. Rainfall accumulation tends to be highest in winter and lowest in early summer.
    http://www.met.ie/climate/climate-of-ireland.asp

    Most of the eastern half of the country has between 750 and 1000 millimetres (mm) of rainfall in the year. Rainfall in the west generally averages between 1000 and 1250 mm. In many mountainous districts rainfall exceeds 2000mm per year. The wettest months, in almost all areas are December and January. April is the driest month generally across the country. However, in many southern parts, June is the driest. Hail and snow contribute relatively little to the precipitation measured.
    http://www.met.ie/climate/rainfall.asp



    Norway's weather is warmer than might be expected from its geographical location. Due to the warmth of the Gulf Stream, most of Norway falls within temperate climate.

    In Norway, the climate varies considerably from coastal to inland areas. The coastal regions have a climate with relatively mild winters and cooler summer months. Inland areas have a continental climate with colder winters, but warmer summertime (for example Oslo).

    The Scandinavian country Norway has a climate that easily fluctuates from year to year, especially in its most northern parts. Those are located at the edge of the global temperate zone.

    An interesting phenomenon in Norway (and some other parts of Scandinavia) is the seasonal change in the length of day and night. In midwinter, daylight lasts 5-6 hours in southern Norway and in the north, darkness prevails. Those dark days and nights are a Scandinavian phenomenon called the Polar Nights.

    In midsummer, daylight takes over and there is no night darkness during June and July, even as far south as Trondheim. The name for this is the Midnight Sun.
    http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/norwa ... norway.htm

  7. Kitsambler

    Kitsambler Jakobsweg Junkie

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    Actually, when I compared Patrick's route to Olaf's, I was making no reference at all to the weather. Instead, I was thinking of the similarities as to length (both about one month rather than the 2+ months for a full Camino) and newness. So, from a project management perspective, the efforts are similar.

  8. kierans

    kierans New Member

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    Hi Margaret,
    Thanks for your response - Actually I think that you are very much in one of the key target segments. Your comments on signage and basic tourism infrastructure are valid and your obsevation on Safety/Security is very pertinent applied to all segments. We are at a very early part of the process and your comments will help shape the next stage.
    Thanks again
    Kieran

  9. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Member

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    This is a really interesting idea, and I hope that it gets looked at seriously by the Irish tourism authorities-- it would be an excellent Northern Ireland/Ireland joint project.

    One of the strengths of the Camino is that it provides for different levels of expenditure. Many pilgrims are students or pensioners, who have a limited income and must be careful about expenditures. While there is unlikely to be the same demand for gîte or hostel accommodation, it should be widely enough available to permit a €40 / day expenditure. My experience of rural Irish accommodation is that this would be difficult to arrange without some work and encouragement—many involved in the Irish and British hospitality industry are… unrealistic…. as to what the market might bear.

    KiwiNomad`s comments are very perceptive. Much depends on the quality of the signage and safety considerations—particularly when it comes to road walking.

    A third consideration for further thought is the route itself. Some of the Camino’s success is because the pilgrim bring more than one agenda to their journey. So while the Camino has an undeniable religious origin, motives of simple tourism as well as personal internal development, can also be enjoyed an applied. It might then be useful to look at western or eastern extensions into areas which could interest a wide range of participants, and which would permit break days. Some of the English and German walking routes might provide some useful ideas.

  10. kierans

    kierans New Member

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    Thanks oursonpolaire for your observations and comments on budget and accommodation requirements. When you referred to English and German walking routes had you any particular routes in mind?
    Thanks
    Kieran

  11. kierans

    kierans New Member

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    Hi Bridget,
    Based on your piligrimage and cycling expereince (particularly of Ireland) do you think a St Patrick's Pilgirmage route could be marketed as both a walking and cycling route?
    Kieran

    Peter and I (and 11 other members of the family) had a sunny week in Ireland in the beginning of May last year. The two of us took our bikes and we had two delightful days cycling on quiet roads, smelling the heady coconut-like scent of the gorse (which I had never noticed before) and stopping at small places for a drink and an icecream.
    I think a St Patrick's pilgrimage route is a really good idea.
    ....[/quote]

  12. kierans

    kierans New Member

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    Thanks Kitsambler - some very practical, cost effective suggestions for us to consider - your recommendation to carry out market research during a Holy Year is good idea and one which I'll put to the rest of the team.
    Thanks again
    Kieran

  13. Bridget and Peter

    Bridget and Peter Member

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    Definitely. Can't wait to do it!

  14. sillydoll

    sillydoll Active Member

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  15. newport

    newport New Member

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    Hi there,

    I live across the bay from croagh Patrick and one of my favorite places in the world is at the top, on a clear day...Have you heard of the Tochar Padraig? Its an approx 44km walk from Ballintubber Abbey to the shoulder of Croagh Patrick (hardly annuals go to the top) which is quite well sign posted, there are offical walks held during Summer so one cant go astray. All types of terrain and can be a real challenge if it rains but well worth it...There is also the Croagh PatrickHeritage trail, Balla to Murrisk approx 61 kms (not including the ascent) which incorporates the first walk, http://www.mayowalks.ie has all the info. It would be great if there was an offical trail incorporating all these walks...
    Not too sure about a cycle trail, our roads just not up to scratch with routes in Spain or France, I think walking might be the safer option...
    Used the Tochar last year as my training for doing part of the Camino, no day on the Camino was as tough, plan to be on it again in a month or two as touchwood, doing the full camino in Sept....

    Cat

  16. pos

    pos New Member

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    I understand that walkers need special permission from the local landowners to walk from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. Long distance pilgrims walks in Ireland would never work due to the attitude of landowners and farmers. There is a serious problem with rights of way and the closing of ancient pilgrim's paths.

    I could never imagine hostels in Ireland charging only €5 for a bed! Our rip off culture would never allow that! So as an Irish person, I feel that the idea of pilgrim routes like the Camino de Santiago in Ireland would never work.

    Paul

  17. dizzydog

    dizzydog New Member

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    Pos I really disagree with your comment regarding access in Ireland. Regarding the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail, this is an approved, way-marked trail where access is absolutely not an issue at all. The development of facilities around the trail is the next step and I understand this is under way. I can see this being steadily extended eastward over time. There is a huge latent interest in this, as evidenced by the number of posts here.
    Regarding Croagh Patrick itself, well, it is a mountain, and it requires care especially if the weather closes in. It's right on the coast, so is prone to fogs etc. However, that is just the last bit of St. Patrick's journey. On very clear days, with that beautiful clear air we get in the west of Ireland,Croagh Patrick is visible from over 100 km away in Oran, co. Roscommon (where there is a St. Patrick statue). The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail is a very pleasant meander through woods, fields, back roads, and always the mountain is your guide in the distance. Easy to understand why it was a pilgrimage site even in pre-Christian times. Come and visit.

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