Mayo

Overview

Introduction

The less-visited county of Mayo, in Ireland's northwest, is spectacular—worth at least a three-night visit. Achill Island and Westport are two of County Mayo's biggest draws, but there are plenty of other attractions if you have the time. http://www.mayo.ie.

Drive along Clew Bay to gaze out at the islands, then go inland to enjoy some of the world's most scenic land and to visit Ireland's holy mountain, Croagh Patrick (a perfectly cone-shaped mountain from where St. Patrick is said to have banished all of Ireland's snakes). Another holy site is the Knock Shrine, where a vision of the Virgin Mary was reportedly seen by several local residents in 1879. Today, both the mountain and Knock Shrine are important pilgrimage destinations. There's also a museum in Louisborough dedicated to the legendary pirate-queen Granuaile (Grace) O'Malley. Rockfleet Castle, her home, is in nearby Newport.

Each July, the village of Drumshambo hosts the week-long Joe Mooney Summer School—classes and lectures from some of the finest traditional musicians in Ireland (http://www.joemooneysummerschool.com). But it is at night, in the pubs, that Drumshambo comes alive with incredible music sessions featuring such legends as accordianist Joe Burke.

Movie buffs might enjoy a glimpse of the village of Cong, the setting for John Ford's film The Quiet Man. Cong, just east of the border with County Galway, also offers a splendid collection of caves and an infamous canal system that never worked.

Achill Island, Ireland's largest offshore island, offers superb scenery: fields of heather, dramatic seaside cliffs, and green and rolling hillsides. Best of all, Achill is easily accessible—it's connected to the mainland by a bridge. Allow a day to see the island. Camping facilities are available.

On Clew Bay and in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Westport offers great deep-sea fishing, stark scenery, friendly people and an annual horse-trading fair, as well as the beautiful tree-lined boulevard known as The Mall, which runs parallel to the Carrowbeg River. Westport House, an old manor house, has a lovely grounds plus the Pirate Adventure Park—featuring a model railway that you can ride—all designed to occupy children who might not share their parents' enthusiasm for stately manors. http://www.westporthouse.ie.

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