The Green and Red of Mayo – a haunting and evocative song by The Saw Doctors…
The song really does give a glimpse into the amazing and stunning landscape of this part of the Emerald Isle. Situated about in the middle of the west coast, breathtaking landscapes and charming villages offer much to see and do.
One of my favorite towns in Ireland is Westport, and it makes an excellent base to explore the area. Westport itself is a perfect combination of a town small enough to offer charm and friendly people, yet large enough to offer great choices for food, drink and entertainment. I’ve stayed there several times, and will definitely do so again. One of the quintessential pubs of Ireland is there – Matt Molloy’s Pub, owned and operated by one of the members of The Chieftains, it offers several snug rooms, each one with different music in the evenings.
Fancy a walk on the wild side? Take a hike up to the tallest sea cliffs in Ireland (Croaghaun on Achill Island). Or make the pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick (though you don’t need to do it barefoot, as is tradition!)
The county itself is host to spectacular mountains, stunning lakes, breathtaking islands, and charming villages, like most of Ireland. But it also has a sense of home, a comfortable relaxing feel that I don’t always feel elsewhere. It’s as if the people of Mayo are satisfied with their place, their home, like no other. They have no wish to go elsewhere, but are content with their piece of heaven on this earth. Looking around, I can’t truly blame them.
Some things to do and see in Mayo:
- Céide Fields, the oldest known field system in the world, dating from about 5,500 years ago.
- Matt Molloy’s Pub in Westport – whether you like modern or traditional music, this multi-roomed pub offers something for everyone with a fantastic staff (many of whom are related to the owner, musician Matt Molloy of The Chieftains).
- Clew Bay – a spectacular view of 365 islands
- Coffin Ship sculpture near Westport by the Augustinian Friary – the bronze sculpture shows skeleton bodies flying in the rigging, commemorating those that died in coffin ships, trying to find a better life in America.
- Ashford Castle – A spectacular restored 12th century castle (De Burgo family) with extensive woodlands, now used as a hotel.
- Prehistoric chamber tombs in Doonanarroo Upper, Clyrawer and Belladooan townlands, as well as Tawnywaddyduff, Ballyduff and Carrowgarve.
- Aashleagh Falls and Killary Harbour – just at the bottom edge of County Mayo, this scenic falls and the only fjord in Ireland offer spectacular views.
- Downpatrick Head – a stunning spot off the north coast of County Mayo near Ballycastle. There is a statue of st. Patrick, and a view of a sea stack called Dun Briste. Legend says the sea stack was created when St. Patrick struck his crozier into the ground when Crom Dubh refused to convert to Christianity.
- Other pubs to enjoy session music are Mannion’s in Balla, Spell’s in Ballaghadereen, McHale’s and McCarthy’s in Castlebar, Finan’s and Murray’s in Charlestown, the community centre on Clare Island, Bourke’s in Foxford, and The Grainneuaile in Newport.
- Mayo Abbey, the ancient capital of County Mayo is hidden off the main road. It was used in the TV series “Amongst Women”, and was founded by St. Colman in 668AD, one of the few founded for Saxon monks.
- Louisburgh town counts over 700 ancient monuments such as court tombs, megalithic wedge tombs, standing stones, and burial mounds.
- Cong – filming locations for the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara classic film, The Quiet Man are in the surrounding area, though alas, the White O’ Mornin’ cottage lies in ruins, due to a negligent owner. Many other places – such as the pub, the church, and the abbey, are available to see.
- Mayo Peace Park, Garden of Remembrance – located in Castlebar city centre, it commemorates those who served and died in the world wars and other conflicts.
- Dolmen of the Four Maols in Ballina, which dates from about 2,000 BCE, also known as the Table of the Giants.
- Cheese – yes, cheese! Wonderful local cheeses, such as Carrowholly, made using raw cow’s milk.
- Enniscoe Museum and Gardens includes a Victorian Walled Garden and pleasure grounds.
- Clare Island – lots to do on the home of Grainne O’Malley, including birdwatching, hillwalking, archeologic trails, horseriding, a 14th century Cistercian Abbey, and other explorations
- Moytura Cong, the ancient site of a great battle from about 3,000 years ago, according to legend, between the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha de Danann (Sidhe/Fairies).
- Hennigan’s Heritage Centre – a folk park near the Museum of Country Life, see how a family survived on ten acres of poor land for 200 years. Displays range from prehistoric to 19th century life.
- Croagh Patrick – located near Westport, it is traditionally hiked up by 30,000 pilgrims on Reek Sunday (the last Sunday in July) barefoot. However, you can hike it yourself any time. It’s not an easy walk, but the path is straight and easy to find. It offers breath-taking views of Clew Bay.
- National parks – there are six of them in Mayo, including Ballycroy National Park which has 11,000 hectares of blanket bog and mountains.
- Westport house and Adventure Park – fun for the family!
- Achill Island – my favorite place in Mayo, Achill offers a great variety of exploration opportunities.
- There are several pristine Blue Flag beaches, such as Keel, Keem or Dugort,
- Seaweed Baths for those that wish to be pampered,
- fantastic views on Ashleam Bay (one of my favorite vantage points in Ireland)
- the Deserted Village or Kildavnet Castle for those interested in history.
- There’s even a Secret Garden for wandering! (Bleanáskill Lodge)
- The tallest sea cliffs in Ireland, Croaghaun Cliffs, are there.
- I loved this island so much, I set most of my second novel (Legacy of Truth) there.
- Sport – while I’m not much into sport, teh River Moy is awash with salmon, and there are fishing lakes all throughout the county. Golfing, cycling, horseback riding, and various water sports are everywhere.
- Belleek Forest Park along the river Moy is 200 acres of woodlands and pathways.
- Knock Marian Shrine – a place of traditional pilgrimage since 1879.
- National Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park near Castlebar, a family-friendly include interactive displays showing daily life in days gone by. Includes spinning wheels, a blacksmith’s forge, and extensive gardens.
More photos I’ve taken in County Mayo:
Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
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