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Saint Patrick on the Wild Atlantic Way

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all over the world, ireland's patron saint is recognised annually on 17 march. The occasion captures the imagination of people around the globe, who might wear green, fly a flag or plant some shamrocks wherever they call home.

But what are the origins of Ireland's national holiday? Who was Saint Patrick and what kind of imprint did he leave on the Wild Atlantic Way in particular? This year, cast your mind back to the fifth century to understand how this iconic individual earned his place in the annals of history.

Walkers at Croagh Patrick in County Mayo

Croagh patrick, mAYO

Mayo is well known for its connections to Saint Patrick and the peak of Croagh Patrick famously marks the spot where he is said to have banished snakes from the island. Not only did this Mayo mountain take its name from the saint, it is still customary for hikers to ascend to the top on a pilgrimage designed to honour him. 

When you get there, enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the Aran Islands, and stand on the spot where, legend has it, Saint Patrick spent 40 days fasting back in 441AD. 

downpatrick head, mayo

The windswept outcrop of Downpatrick Head lies just north of Ballycastle in Mayo. Its name originates with the founding of a church by Saint Patrick, the ruins of which still exist today. Once a popular place of pilgrimage, a celebratory mass takes place on the site every July.

More Saint Patrick legends swirl about this destination though; the Dún Briste (broken fort) sea-stack is apparently the place at which a pagan chieftain refused to covert to Christianity. Hearing this, Saint Patrick struck the ground with his crozier, splitting a chunk of the headland off into the ocean, with the chieftain on top! It remains a beautiful, history-soaked natural phenomenon. 

donoughmore, Limerick

Saint Patrick is said to have visited this Wild Atlantic Way destination in 434AD. At Saingeal (Singland) after labouring on a church in Donoughmore, he laid on a flat stone and slept (the stone becoming known as leaba Paidraig ("Patrick’s bed"). After his lie-in, he still found time to fit in some saintly duties before leaving the vicinity — he's believed to have baptised a Dalcassian king called Cairthenn the Fair and his son.


serpent's lake, Killarney

Just outside of Killarney National Park is the Serpent’s Lake, in the Gap of Dunloe. Here Patrick is said to have tricked and imprisoned the last of Ireland’s snakes in a chest — before throwing it into the waters and banishing the creatures from the island forever.

View of a lake in early morning

Lough derg, donegal

Continuing the snake theme, stories say that on the Donegal side of this beautiful lake, Ireland's patron saint defeated a giant serpent, turning the water red with its blood (hence the lake's name: "dearg" is Irish for "red".) Today St Patrick's Purgatory, an ancient pilgrimage site on Lough Derg's Station Island, continues to attract visitors of all religions, or none, during the summer season.

As you experience the Wild Atlantic Way this St Patrick's Day, you won't be far from the historical sites and ancient destinations that keep his legacy fresh today.


So much more to embrace

No matter what your tastes or passions are the Wild Atlantic Way has something for everyone

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