County Mayo is on the west coast of Ireland. Peninsulas jut out into the Atlantic. The Nephin Beg, Partry, and Slieve Gamph (Ox) mountains add dramatic inland scenery. Pre-historic sites are plentiful, and Christian history plays its part here as well. The sea, the rivers and the lakes offer outdoor activities. Mayo Attractions
Mayo is the location of Ireland’s largest island, Achill, reached by bridge from the Currane peninsula in the north-west. Four Blue Flag beaches, the Atlantic Drive, and the Minaun cliffs at Keel village provide scenic views. Doogort on the north coast is a popular resort.
The Annagh valley and lake (reached on foot or by boat) is a remote and quiet countryside location. There are archaeological and historic sites to visit: Slievemore deserted village (ruins of 100 stone houses) and Kildavnet tower (15th century tower house) overlooking Achill Sound. Traditional music and three festivals—seafood, culture, and St Patrick’s—provide entertainment. The Expo Achill Centre details all the local history and culture of the island.
The heritage town of Westport, on the Carrowbeg river and Clew Bay, is a busy industrial and commercial centre. Outdoor activities include fishing, golf, sailing and forest walks. The Clew Bay Heritage Centre at the Westport quay is a local history museum and tourist information office. Westport has two churches to visit: St Mary’s Catholic church and Holy Trinity. Holy Trinity, built in the 1870s, has a hammer roof, murals in marble mosaic, a Carrara marble decorated chancel, and an alabaster pulpit.
Westport House and Country Heritage Park was created in the 1700s with later additions. The interior hall has a barrel ceiling; on view are a drawing room, long gallery, and a dining room complete with a silver service. Dungeons are found in the basement. The grounds have a walled garden and a lake.
Rockfleet Castle (Carrickahowley Castle) sits on the mouth of a small inlet on the north shore of Clew Bay. Newport, a few miles north of Westport is a fishing centre. St Patrick’s Catholic Church has a good stained glass window. Northwest of Westport at Rosmoney is an old coastguard station.
Croagh Patrick mountain is south of Murrisk. A two hour walking path leads to the summit. It’s the site of St Patrick’s supposed banishment of the snakes. A visitor centre provides information on the site.
18th century Louisburgh, in an area of natural beauty on the scenic Murrisk peninsula south-west of Westport, is the gateway to Doo Lough and Glencullin. The area offers sandy beaches, swimming, nature trails, forest walks, and archaeological sites. The Folk and Heritage Centre tells the story of the O’Malley family. 15th century Murrisk Abbey ruins are on the shore of the bay. The church is noted for its east window and 17th century west door.
Clare Island, at the mouth of Clew Bay is home to a number of archaeological remains that include the Lecarrow court-tomb, standing stones, ten forts, iron age huts, a ruined castle, and a 15th century Cistercian abbey, noted for its wall painting.
A boat service runs from Roonagh quay (25 minute crossing) to the island. The four mile long island manages to include pastureland, highlands, and beaches. Inishturk Island offers a number of attractions: a harbour, a beach, archaeological sites, bird sanctuaries, and sandy beaches. Boats also run from Roonagh quay to this island.
The county town of Mayo is Castlebar, east of Westport. The National Museum of Ireland-Country Life at Turlough Park four miles east of the town is home to a national folklife collection. Ballintubber Abbey, south of Castlebar on the N84, was built in 1216 as a royal abbey and has been in continuous use for over 780 years. At Balla, south-east of Castlebar is a round tower and medieval altar.
In the north of county Mayo the roads are scarce with much of the uninhabited interior being inaccessible except by foot. Sea cliffs and the Nephin Bog mountains provide dramatic but bleak views. Downpatrick Head looks across the waters to Sligo county. The ruins of St Patrick’s church are here. The area around the Mullet peninsula offers rock cliffs, sea inlets, sand, and small settlements.
The most extensive prehistoric site in Ireland, the Ceide Fields is found near the town of Ballycastle on the north coast. Lying beneath a 5000 year old bog, the archaeological remains of the Neolithic period cover 3707 acres of ground and are comprised of 30 court tombs, field systems, and enclosures. The pyramid shaped Visitor Centre offers exhibits and an AV presentation on the site. Ballycastle is a resort town with a long sandy beach. The town holds an Irish festival in June.
Killala sits on the bay of the same name on the north coast. The Republic of Ireland was first proclaimed here. A 1680 cathedral and a round tower are in the town. There are a large number of archaeological sites in the area: tombs, the bronze age Breastagh ogham stone, ringforts, and Rathfran friary. The Dominican friary was founded in 1274. The cloister and 16th century buildings lie in ruins.
South at the mouth of the river is Moyne friary. It’s a Fransciscan friary of the mid 15th century. To be seen are cloisters, a church, tower, east range, and kitchen. A few miles further on is Rosserk friary. The Fransciscan ruins also date from the mid 15th century. There’s a carved west door and piscina, cloisters, dormitories, vaulted rooms, and a church.
Continuing south leads to Ballina, a town of 8500 on the river Moy, the largest in the county. It was founded in 1723, and is a fishing, commercial, and industrial centre. Two bridges cross over the river on either side of 19th century St Muredach’s cathedral, next to which are the ruins of a 1427 Augustinian friary. Just behind the railway station in a field is the Ballina dolmen.
West of Ballina near Lough Conn is Crossmolina, a small picturesque town on the river Deel. There are countryside walks and the Mayo North Family Heritage Centre. Enniscoe Gardens in the grounds of Enniscoe Country House (accommodation) are south of the town. Open for view are a Victorian walled garden, organic garden, and 19th century pleasure grounds.
Foxford sits on the N26 south of Ballina. Foxford Woolen Mills offers a visitor centre, shop, mill tours, a restaurant, art gallery, woodcrafting, and tourist information. Near Bonniconlon are a number of archaeological monuments including a passage tomb at Carrowreagh.
Hennigans Heritage Centre at Rubble, Swinford is a theme farm and museum. There’s a picnic area, a thatched cottage, demonstrations, and archaeological tours.
Kiltimagh is an artisan village in county Mayo’s interior. There’s a market square and town museum at the old railway station with an art centre and sculpture area. A restored town forge is on view along with a 19th century restored school and 12th century parish church. Local crafts can be purchased at the tourist information point.
Lough Mask lies on the county border with Galway. A castle is sited on the lake. In the east, Ballinrobe on the river Robe has a castle and cornmarket.
90 minute cruises on Lough Corrib to Inchagaoill Island depart from the Lisloughrey and Oughterard piers in Cong. Cong sits on the shores of Lough Corrib north of Galway city. The ruins of Augustinian Cong Abbey date from the 12th century. Remains of the church include a chancel and doorway. Cloister capitals and a chapter house complete the picture. By the abbey ruins is Ashford Castle, once home to one of the Guinness family but now a hotel with gardens and a forest to attract visitors.
An island in Lough Corrib plays host to the ruins of Hen’s castle. To the east is a 13th century Norman castle at Shrule on the Black River. Added attractions are archaeological monuments and a village green. Kilmaine’s archaeological monuments include Raunaskerra ringfort.
Ballintubber, on N84
Tel. 094 9030934
Ceide Fields Visitor Centre
Tel. 353 96 43325
Clew Bay Heritage Centre
Westport at the harbour along Westport quay
Tel. 098 25711 or 098 26852
Enniscoe House and Gardens
Enniscoe, Castlehill, Ballina
Tel. 096 31112
Web: Enniscoe House and Gardens
School Road, Achill Island
Tel. 098 43317
Foxford Woolen Mills
Saint Joseph’s Place, Foxford
Tel. 094 9256756
Hennigans Heritage Centre
Tel. 094 92542505
Kiltimagh Town Museum
Old Railway Station, Aiden Street, Kiltimagh
Tel. 094 9381494
15 km south of Castlebar
Web: Lough Carra
Louisburgh Folk and Heritage Centre
Tel. 098 66341
National Museum of Ireland-Country Life
Turlough Park, Turlough
Tel. 094 903 1773
Web: National Museum of Ireland-Country Life
Old Coastguard Station
Tel. 094 9025500
Westport House and Country Heritage Park
Tel. 098 27766
Web: Westport House
Clare Island Ferries: 098-26 307 or 087-2414653 (mobile) or 086-851 5003 (mobile);
Email for schedule: Clare Island Ferries
O’Malley Ferry Service to Clare Island: 098 25045 or 086 8777390 (mobile) or 086 8870814 (mobile).
Email for schedule: O’Malley Ferry Service
Tourist Information Centres
Achill Tourist Office
Tel. 098 45384
Ballina Tourist Office
Tel. 096 70848
Ballinrobe Tourist Office
Tel. 094 954 2150
Castlebar Tourist Office
Tel. 094 902 1207
Knock Village Tourist Office
Tel. 094 938 8193
Westport Tourist Office
Tel. 098 25711
Open year round
Photos of Achill Island, Aasleagh Falls, Ballintubber Friary, Ceide Fields Visitor Centre, Crough Patrick, Murrisk abbey, and Westport House © by Barbara Ballard
Photo of Westport courtesy Tourism Ireland
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Achill Island Keem Bay by Sarah777; Achill Island Neolithic graves on Slievemore by Chris Burrell; Achiill Island Slievemore abandoned village, Country Life Museum Turlough by Robert Bone; Ballina River Moy, Killala town from pier by Liz McCabe; Ballina St Muredach cathedral by Brian Smith; Granualie Castle, Clare Island beach by Oliver Dixon; Doo Lough, Clare Island abbey by Steve Edge; Enniscoe walled garden by Kay Atherton; Ballinrobe, Foxford Woollen Mill visitor centre, Rosserk friary by C Michael Hogan; Hennigan Heritage Centre, Nephin view to south-east by Pamela Norrington; Kiltimagh railway station by TheTurfBurner; Lough Mask by Brian Nelson; Moyne Friary by Francoise Poncelet; Newport St Patrick church by Bill Henderson; Shrule Castle by Mike Searle; Clare Island ferry by Albert Bridge; Cong abbey by Joseph Mischyshyn
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