Gardaí say the number of people climbing Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo today was significantly lower than in previous years. The official pilgrimage was cancelled due to ongoing public health restrictions.

Traffic restrictions were in place on approach roads to the mountain from early today but many regular pilgrims appear to have heeded appeals to stay away from the area. 

This evening, in a further indication of the reduced footfall, Mayo Mountain Rescue said it had no reports of any incidents during the course of the day. 

For those who did make the 765m (2,500ft)  ascent, smaller crowds meant a less hectic climb.

Val Dempsey, from Minane Bridge in Co Cork, was one of those who made the journey. He told RTÉ News how he has travelled to Croagh Patrick for the last 35 years, saying "summer wouldn't be summer, without a visit there on the last Sunday in July". 

Those sentiments were shared by John McDonagh, from London, who was climbing with his brothers. Their pilgrimage was to offer prayers for some relatives who are being treated for cancer. 

In place of hourly mass at the summit this year, the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam marked Reek Sunday at St Mary's Church in Westport. 

In his homily, Dr Michael Neary spoke of the challenges and opportunities for the faithful, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He expressed hope that a change in perspective would bring people closer to their faith. 

The decision to cancel the annual pilgrimage was made in May, with organisers citing fears over crowds on the mountain and the difficulty in ensuring that social distancing guidelines could be properly maintained. 

The tradition of climbing Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday in July goes back centuries. Around 25,000 people usually take part in the Reek Sunday ascent every year.

More recently, concerns about increased, year round traffic on the mountain has led to plans to carry out improvement works on the section close to the summit, known as the cone.