“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains” –  John Muir

Early on Sat May 11 2013, our pilgrims gathered quietly in preparation for our final destination – Croagh Patrick. The Reek, as it is colloquially known, overlooks Clew Bay in County Mayo and is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland. The tradition of pilgrimage to this holy mountain stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption.

CroaghPatrick_creek Manchán Magan wrote this piece for The Guardian in 2009: “ A staggering 20-25,000 pilgrims still climb Croagh Patrick mountain – a soaring cone-shaped 765m (2,500ft) peak that rises above Clew Bay in Co Mayo – each year on the last Sunday in July (the nearest Sunday to the original pagan festival of Lughnasa), often barefoot. This is where the Irish have always come for guidance and reassurance at the beginning of harvest time; later, it became a place for penance for sins committed. We’ve been coming here for more than 3,000 years, since our Neolithic ancestors first chose it as a sacred site. Later, we came to worship the Celtic sun god, Lugh; then, in AD441, the site was cannily co-opted by St Patrick, who fasted here for 40 days and nights before banishing the snakes from Ireland. Ever since, we have been coming in memory of him.” <read the full article>

Our Pilgrimage Project expedition weaved together an eclectic array of artists, musicians, writers and performers from Ireland, Iceland & Greece. This was the final stretch of Pilgrimage Project.We were joined by friends, family and curious strangers who soon became friends. We were also aided and abetted by a motley crew of pioneers including Pat Collins, Ruth Meehan and Manchán Magan who joined our expedition to share their work and experiences with the pilgrims.

Arriving at the summit is a rite of passage and was emotional for some who had soldiered through fire and sword to get there. The instructions for penitential rituals and prayers added a surrealist Catholic touch for our international guests.


The view from the top is spectacular – particularly when assisted by homemade sandwiches and flasks of tea. We began our mountain descent like wild goats in the knowledge that some creamy pints of Guinness where calling our thirsty pagan souls.


Pat Collins’ extraordinary film What We Leave in our Wake was a touch stone for Pilgrimage Project and we hosted a screening of it at The Model, Sligo later that evening when we came down off the mountain. Ruth Meehan hosted a conversation after the film with Pat Collins and with Aoife and myself as the project curators.  It was a beautiful way to unwind and make sense of our collective fieldtrips to ancient burial sites, monastic settlements, graveyards, seaweed baths and well-worn pilgrim paths.

Watch the video below of our closing journey.






“A procession is a participants’ journey” – Rebecca Solnit

If felt like a portentous gathering on Wednesday as we emerged from our cottages for breakfast in tandem with the dawn chorus.  We had planned a “ mystery field trip “ for that morning which involved considerable traveling on our school bus to a top secret destination. The game was up when Iarla realized that we were travelling through a Gaeltacht area and announced that we were possibly in County Donegal.

A huge inspiration at the heart of this project is the ancient thread that connects the Irish Monks who departed from Teelin in Southwest Donegal and the first settlers in Iceland. That morning we made a return procession to Teelin with our fellow Icelandic (& Greek) pilgrims. We arrived in driving rain to a misty inlet on the north side of Donegal Bay – the fishing village of Teelin.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s hard to believe it’ all over. What a wonderous magical week we all had in Sligo. It’s very hard to know where to start, so we’ll start with images and write more later.

Over the course of the week we climbed Knocknarea, Carrowkeel, Sliabh League, Croagh Patrick and visited the resting places of Queen Maeve and W.B. Yeats and the departure points of the Irish Monks who sailed to Iceland in the 5th Century. We shared discussions on Irish Identity, Irish language, Irish debt, Irish shame, Irish art and who we are today. We shared food, shared thoughts and shared work. We made music, made joy and made fire. We journeyed inwards and outwards and the journey is still unfolding.

We are gathering out thoughts, and thoughts from our Pilgrims, and will share them all with you very soon. We also had beautiful footage shot all week and hope to share some of that with you soon.

In the meantime here are some pictures from the week to end all weeks.

with love

Aoife & Kathy

During Pilgrimage we had two wonderful cooks on board to prepare beautiful food for everyone all week. Going under the name News of the Curd, Kevin and Robin are a cooking duo who host regular supper clubs in their home in Temple Bar in Dublin (every Wednesday and Friday if you want to pop along) not to mention pop-ups of all kinds all over the city and country. 

They are really passionate about irish food, small suppliers and foraging, so they seemed like the perfect people for Pilgrimage, and indeed they were. They worked so hard all week to make us breakfast, lunch and dinner, choosing ingredients that they knew would be slow release and full of energy to fuel our many walks and expeditions.  

They’ve just written a wonderful blog about their experience of the week, everything from their lift to sligo in Donal’s tetris packed jeep to their adventures in foraging, their impressions of the house and their encounter with Pat Collins.

A few months we had the pleasure of being invited to be involved in the Pilgrimage Project: a collective of Irish, Icelandic and Greek artists exploring cultural and historical themes on retreat in a far flung corner of the west of Ireland, Co. Sligo. Our part was to provide meals on-site for the group and their guests, hopefully providing them with healthy, satisfying locally sourced Irish food.

read the full post>

Two of our pilgrims, Donal Dineen and Myles O’Reilly, released a beautiful short film this week that we wanted to share with you. We first saw this when it was screened at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon Co. Leitrim and are delighted to be able to share the whole film with you.  At 30minutes long it is a beautiful meditation on what it means to be Irish, both in the present moment and through our past.

Filmed last July at The Willie Clancy Week, a unique and special week of music making in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare, the film looks at what it really means to have a folk tradition. The ways in which that is handed down from experienced master to passionate youngster, and what that means for music in Ireland across the generations.  To quote the contributor at the end of the piece;

“Passion doesn’t describe it at all…you learn from the community you mix with…and listening becomes the most important skill of all….it’s only when music gets into you that it starts coming out”