Mayo

The Great Western Greenway between Achill Island and Westport

Why Visit Mayo

Mayo is one of Ireland's most beautiful regions; however, it's one of the most under-rated areas from a tourist perspective. This is why, in my opinion, it's one of the best regions in Ireland to visit. The scenery is fantastic, outdoor activities abound, there's not a lot of tourists and there's a great variety of things to do such as the:
  • Stunning scenery of Achill Island
  • Croagh Patrick is beckoning you to climb it
  • Ancient discovery at Céide Fields
  • National Museum of Country Life
  • Westport House - maybe Ireland's most beautiful
  • Pilgrimage location of Knock Shrine
  • Luxurious medieval Ashford Castle

Mayo's Highlights

Westport House

With over 30 rooms on show, visitors can immerse themselves in life as far back as the 16th century when Grace O’Malley the Pirate Queen of Connacht ruled the land and seas around the estate. Built upon the foundations of one of her many castles which can still be toured in the dungeons today, the original Westport House was built in 1650.

Almost four hundred acres of lush green, natural beauty, along the Looped Walk, the Italianate Gardens, the secretive walled gardens, the forest trails… there is simply so much to discover and enjoy.

In addition, check out the two attractions here: Pirate Adventure Park and the Birds of Prey Centre including the show and the Hawk Walk.​

Westport House

National Museum of Country Life

Explore rural life in Ireland in this award-winning museum set in the grounds of Turlough Park.  The collection focuses on the period from 1850 to 1950 when tenant farmers were struggling to become owners of the land they worked. The museum’s exhibits illustrate the traditional way of country life while providing historical context of this difficult time. 

National Museum of Country Life

Downpatrick Head

Jutting out into the ocean and rising almost 40 meters above the waves, Downpatrick Head provides stunning views of the Atlantic. You can spot the nearby Dún Briste sea stack (stands 150 feet tall) with its different colored layers of rock and nesting sea birds. The site is also home to the ruins of a church, holy well and stone cross which together mark the site of an earlier church founded by St Patrick.

Downpatrick Head 375 kb

Céide Fields

The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old. It is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance, which has changed our perception of our Stone Age ancestors. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles. They tell a story of the everyday lives of a farming people, their organized society, their highly developed spiritual beliefs, and their struggle against a changing environment beyond their control.

Ceide Fields

Knock Shrine

Knock Shrine is an international pilgrimage destination dedicated to an apparition by the Blessed Virgin Mary on a wet, dark August evening in 1879. In 1979, the shrine was visited by Pope John Paul II and later in 1993 by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It receives 1.5 million pilgrims annually. Join a free daily guided tour of Knock Shrine and become enthralled by the fascinating story of the Apparition of 1879 and discover more about the ordinary people who witnessed this event.

Knock Shrine

Ashford Castle

Your royal adventure begins when you enter through the grand stone gates of this remarkable 800 year old castle. With exquisite interiors, delicious cuisine, a wealth of estate activities and a state-of-the-art spa, this 350 acre estate is the former home of the Guinness family. Breath-taking views of Lake Corrib and beyond. Horse riding, fishing, falconry, shooting, golf, cycling and kayaking are some of the onsite activities.

Ashford Castle

Areas of interest in County Mayo

The charming town of Westport situated on the shores of Clew Bay was built to the plan of James Wyatt, a well-known Georgian period architect. One of the most popular attractions is Westport House. With over 30 rooms on show, visitors can immerse themselves in life as far back as the 16th century when Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connacht, ruled the land & seas. There's almost 400 acres of lush green, natural beauty. Also, make sure to see the Pirate Adventure Park and the Birds of Prey Centre.

Ballycroy National Park

Achill Island

Lashed by the ocean, carved by the wind and swept by the rain, Achill is one of Ireland's most spectacular & beautiful places. Achill's rugged landscape features dramatic cliffs, soaring mountains, remote lakes and secluded beaches - including no fewer than 5 Blue Flag beaches. Highlights include stunningly beautiful Keem Bay. Other areas of interest are: Annagh (protected on 3 sides by steep cliffs and  a bay on the other, it's accessible  only on foot or by boat), Achill Aquarium, Deserted Village & Blueway Trails.
Ballycroy is Ireland's latest national park. It's 15,000 hectares of Atlantic bog and mountainous terrain, covering a vast uninhabited and unspoiled wilderness dominated by the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. The main area of the park is ideal for those wishing to hike in remote & wild areas and as such is recommended for experienced hillwalkers. The Visitor Centre houses a very informative interactive exhibition, experienced guides, a cafe and a short nature trail.

Cong

Cong is a small village famous for its 12th century abbey, the lavish gold & silver processional Cross of Cong from 1123, the magnificent Ashford Castle, the village's links with Oscar Wilde and, most popularly, its association with the John Wayne classic, The Quiet Man (see the statue of John Wayne & Maureen O'Hara and the Quiet Man Cottage Museum). The nearby Cong Woods provide shady trails - great for relaxing walks amongst the dense forest.

Westport

Scenic drives

There's a number of scenic drives in County Mayo. Some of the best are on N59 driving right next to Killary Fjord heading to Clog. In spring, the rhododendrons are in bloom and their purple flowers are beautiful. Heading through Doolough Pass on R335 is quiet & serene as you pass the Great Famine stone memorial. Driving through Ballycroy NP on N59, you'll see how vast and open the area is. Nearby take R319 from Mulranny to Achill Island.
Killary Fjord near Clog on N59
Killary Fjord near Clog on N59

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Doolough Pass on R335
Doolough Pass on R335

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Ballycroy Nat'l Park on N59
Ballycroy Nat'l Park on N59

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Killary Fjord near Clog on N59
Killary Fjord near Clog on N59

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Hiking/hillwalking
Ballycroy NP has "moderate to high fitness" trails ranging from 6 km to 40 km plus a 2 km loop from the visitor centre; Croagh Patrick's Pilgrim Path & Hiking Trail is a moderate to strenuous 7 km "each way" trail to the spectacular iconic mountain peak; Clonbur Woods, near the town of Cong, has beautiful walks through the local forest; Achill Island has some challenging trails
Cycling
The Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking & cycling trail in Ireland. The 42 km trail is traffic free and follows the route of the renowned Westport to Achill Railway which closed in 1937. It passes some of Western Ireland's most dramatic mountains and offers magnificent views of Clew Bay and its many islands. Ride or walk the whole distance or break it up into smaller segments. Bike hire companies provide rentals & transportation.
Adventure
Mountain skills & wilderness experience training, rock climbing, orienteering, archery
Water activities
Kayaking, sailing, surfing, windsurfing, body boarding
Horse riding
Several stables provide lessons, pony camps, beach rides, country treks, mountain rides
Fishing (angling)
Great salmon fishing on the River Moy

Cong Woods

Outdoor activities