Hello, I’m Morgane and I’m from France and I have just joined the tourireland.com team as an intern. As part of my studies I have to spend time working abroad on placement in a company so I choose to come to Ireland as I’ve heard so much about this lovely country.
When myself and my friends arrived we spent a few days exploring Dublin City but after a few days we decided that as we will be living in Dublin during our placement we should really see other parts of Ireland so we went to Mayo for a few days to explore this lovely county. There are so many places to visit here and I didn’t know where to start but I had heard about Westport and Achill Island from my grandparents and I really wanted to discover it. There is so much to do and see so we tried to squeeze everything into our few days there!
So just so you know where Mayo is, it is located in the West Region of Ireland and is also part of the province of Connacht and is the third largest county in Ireland. So, if you ever decide to visit Mayo below are some of my highlights of our holiday and the must see attractions that I would recommend.
We set off early in the morning and we were heading for Westport as we we’re spending our first night there but on the way we stopped in Knock to see the village of Knock and the Knock Shrine.
You really should see this holy place! Knock Shrine is an international place of pilgrimage and prayer where over one and a half million pilgrims come every year. Knock is a small town, but it has received international fame after local people reported seeing the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist at their Parish Church on August 21, 1879. After a walk around Knock, we hopped back into the car en route to Westport.
We arrived in Westport early so we checked into our hotel had a walk around the town. It’s a town with a lot of history and lovely architecture to admire. Its’ a lovely and typical Irish town, with lots of pubs and monuments.
As it was still early in the day we decided to go to Croagh Patrick as we have heard so much about it. Nearly everyone who is planning a visit to the Mayo region wants to see Croagh Patrick. After all, it is one of the most popular attractions here in Ireland and it offers one of the most gorgeous views in Ireland! So what is it? It’s a 764 metres (2,507 ft) tall mountain. (10km west of the town). Croagh Patrick’s history as a place of worship reaches back in time as far as 3,000 BC. The mountain’s popularity among religious pilgrims dates to the time of St. Patrick, who is said to have completed a forty-day Lenten ritual of fasting and penance here. Each year, on the last Sunday in July, thousands of devotees from all around the world visit the mountain for what is known as "Reek Sunday", a day of worship in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. Some people even climb the mountainside barefoot, as an act of penance. Outdoor masses are held throughout the day, along with confessions at St. Patrick’s Chapel. This is one place in rural Ireland where you can meet and speak with people from around the globe.
We decided to climb up Croagh Patrick but choose the shortest way up which is from Murrisk (between Westport and Louisburgh). You should allow 4 to 5 hours for the round trip. (Because you when you’ve reached the top, you want to stay and admire the view and take a rest after all the effort that you have done!)
It’s not too hard to up the mountain (I did it!!) but don’t forget to be well prepared! The wind might be strong! (Good shoes… and don’t forget your bottle of water!) We decided to have a picnic on the top, it wasn’t a good idea because of the wind but it would be lovely on a good summers day ?
After a long day of walking, we took some much needed rest and then went into Westport town and had some lovely dinner and a few drinks. There are lots of lovely restaurants and bars in Westport some with traditional Irish music playing!
The following morning, we were up early and we decided to visit Westport Houses and Gardens.It was just so beautiful and lovely. Westport House is one of Ireland's most beautiful and historic homes. It has 30 rooms and dungeons, extensive gardens and a tree trail, guided tours, original architecture, artwork and antiques.
You can also enjoy the pirate adventure park with your child, but this day, I was a child too!
Here you’ll find a host of activities to entertain and thrill including a log flume water ride, swan pedals boats, a miniature railway, pitch ‘n’ putt, indoor and outdoor playgrounds and paint your own pottery! Try out orienteering, archery, clay pigeon shooting, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or basic sailing. Try the latest craze; Zorbing, shoot down the 270m zipline so as you can see lots of things to do in Westport House, it’s definitely worth a visit.
After a few hours in Westport House , Not too far away, only 20 minutes by car, we went to Castlebar, the Capital of Mayo.We strolled around the town and discovered this nice little place. We were very stiff and we couldn’t walk anymore after Croagh Patrick so we hoped back in the car and went to find Ballintubber Abbey which is about 7 miles south of Castlebar.
Ballintubber Abbey is the only church in Ireland still in daily use that was founded by an Irish king in 1216. The church is beautiful and is a very quiet place and gives you time to reflect.
As we had a busy day ahead of us and wanted to see as much as possible we jumped back in the car and went to the Museum of Country Life which is located in Turlough Village, 8kms east of Castlebar. It is the home to the National Folklife Collection which represents traditional life in Ireland throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. After our long day, we went to bed early so that we wouldn’t be tried for our trip to Achill Island and its beaches!
After a lovely breakfast we set off for Achill Island, even though it is called an Island there is a bridge to the island called the Michael Davitt Bridge which was brilliant as there was no need for us to take a boat. When we arrived we were so surprised about all the sheep, they are everywhere!!! You have to drive slowly; they can cross the road at any time! We drove on the Atlantic drive; you have to be not faint-hearted! It was just gorgeous and impressive. Most of the people were on their bicycles for the 40km of breathtaking coastal, but we are not so sporty… ? But I am sure it’s worth it!
Achill's stunning landscape and rich history offer visitors a wide range of scenic attractions, beauty spots and places of interest. Achill Island is perfect for exploring on a weekend or short break,
We stopped for a picnic in Keem Bay, one of the blue flag beaches at the western tip of the island. It’s accessible via a cliff-top road (a drive!). Keem Bay is a perfect horseshoe bay and its Atlantic waters are so blue. I tried to dip my feet in the water , but it was too cold for me! But the locals told me that it’s getting warm during the summer.
Our last day we decided to visit the Ceide Fields which are situated northwest from Ballina. Céide Fields overlooks the mighty Atlantic Ocean which gently laps or vigorously pounds – depending on the weather! You have to walk a little bit if you want to enjoy all the landscape.
The spectacular scenery along the northern cliffs of Mayo would be worth the drive, but to find Ceide Fields Visitors Center out here in the wilds is an exceptional pleasure. The glass-topped pyramid is visible from quite a distance, though it DOES look vaguely like the hilltop cairns in Sligo from far away.
We had to say goodbye to Mayo as we started our journey back to Dublin, we all really enjoyed exploring the county of Mayo for our few days holiday. Mayo is a beautiful county, we did see as much as possible and we were tired after our trip but it was well worth it! I would definitely recommend visiting this lovely county.