46 Magical Things to do in Mayo
There are so many things to do in Mayo you could spend your entire vacation here. Even the Irish choose Mayo to vacation as it is so well-loved here in Ireland.
Mayo is located on the fabulous Wild Atlantic Way and is home to the largest Island in Ireland Achill Island. Often overlooked in favour of Ireland’s most well-known tourist destinations, Mayo is bursting with beautiful landscapes, adventurous activities and stunningly peaceful havens where you can just and enjoy the jaw-dropping views.
If you are looking for things to do in Mayo, you are in luck because this county has plenty to offer. Mayo is located in western Ireland, and it sits on the Wild Atlantic Way, and has everything from great food, ancient history, hiking mountains, and any number of adventurous activities.
County Mayo in Ireland map
How to get to Mayo
County Mayo is a region on the west coast of Ireland. The best way to get from Dublin to Mayo County is by train which takes around 3 hours. If you take a bus to Mayo from Dublin expect around a 4-hour journey.
What is Mayo famous for?
Its name comes from the Irish words “Maigh Eo” meaning “Plain of the yew trees” and originates from the village of Mayo nowadays known as Mayo Abbey.
Mayo Ireland borders on the north with the Atlantic Ocean, on the south with County Galway, on the east with County Roscommon, while the northeast is adjacent to County Sligo. Any Irish road trip should include Mayo, it is a stunning country with much to see and enjoy.
Mayo is on the western seaboard of the island of Ireland. It is one of the largest counties of Ireland, the third-largest in fact and is part of the province of Connacht. Mayo was one of the worst affected parts of Ireland during the Great Famine in the 1840s. This resulted in a large proportion of its population starving to death and large numbers were forced to emigrate at this time.
46 places to visit in County Mayo
Cong Ireland is found in County Mayo about an hour’s drive from Westport in the southwest region of Ireland. It’s a small village that is known worldwide as the place where The Quiet Man was filmed which starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
Nestled right on the border of Galway, Cong is located close to the village of Moytura, which is home to some of Ireland’s most ancient stone monuments and circles dating back to the Neolithic era.
Take a cruise from Cong to Inchagoill Island in Lough Corrib. A treasure trove of archaeological wealth there are two church ruins on the Island.
St Patrick’s was a tiny church thirty feet long dating back to the 5th century. The second referred to as The Saints Church, is slightly larger this ruin has a Celtic doorway of sculptured heads thought to have been carved in the 12the century. On an inside wall, you will spot a carved “puzzle” of Byzantine crosses. A mound just by the Saints Church is the grave of a 12th-century Archbishop of Tuam.
Look for the standing stone The Stone Of Lugna which is 2 feet 6 inches high and has an ancient Roman inscription. It is believed to be the oldest Christian inscription in Europe outside of the catacombs.
Addergoole Titanic Monument
This tiny parish is County Mayo was hit particularly hard when the Titanic sunk in 1912. Sixteen of the residents of Lahardane, Mayo sailed on that infamous journey and 14 perished when the ship went down. Today the St Patrick’s Church in Lahardane has a plaque commemorating the disaster.
Ballycroy National Park
Ballycroy National Park is Ireland’s 6th largest national park and it is located in northwest Mayo. It is comprised of 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range.
You will find one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in Europe and Ireland here at Ballycroy. This bog is an incredibly important feature of the Park as is protects rare and important habitats and species under the EU Habitats and Birds Directive.
Dark Sky Preserve
Ballycroy National Park is also home to Ireland’s first dark sky preserve the Mayo Dark Sky Park which showcases the most pristine skies in the world. Here between the Nephin Mountains and the wild Atlantic you can see over 4,500 stars and planets in the solar system. If you are lucky you may catch falling stars and meteor showers highlighting the vast skies above you.
Ballycroy offers hikers an absolute goldmine of various intensities of hikes and walks. You can also go camping in the area or hike the Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail which is a 2km trail along some jaw-dropping coastal scenery.
Islands of Mayo
Clare Island the home of the O’Malleys guards the entrance to Clew Bay in Mayo. Accessible by a ferry from the Roonagh Pier, this is the hiker’s island. You can visit Grace’s grave and take a look at the medieval wall paintings in the Cistercian Abbey or climb to the top of Knocknore Mountain.
Caher Island can be visited by boat from Inishturk or Ronnagh Pier it holds the ruins of a chapel adorned with the original 7th century celtic crosses. There are also hermitage sites which historians believe were inhabited by the followers of St. Columba. A pilgrimage takes place every August to the Island which is part of the annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage. Sunday in July.
Inishturk is to be found about 9 miles off the coast of Mayo and it is famous for its sports field that the islanders carved out of the mountain. Inishturk in English means Island of the Wild Boar and it contains Ireland’s smallest primary school and a Community Centre which is also a pub and a library. Inishturk is famous for its cliffs and sea stacks Buachaill Mor and Buachaill Beag which can be found when following the clifftop from Dromore Head.
Two hauntingly beautiful islands with a tragic history about an hour away by boat from Belmullet. These low lying islands are dotted with the ruins of cottages abandoned in the late 1920’s.
In 1927 a fishing accident killed 10 of the island’s young men and shortly afterwards the island’s people left for the mainland. You can visit the small graveyard where the men are buried.
Achill Island is of course the island that most tourists flock to in the season. The largest of the Islands in Ireland it has a coastline of nearly 80 miles. Achill is one of the few Irish Islands that you can get to overland as it is connected to the mainland by a swing bridge.
Achill is home to two stunning beaches Keel Beach which is perfect for surfing and Keem Bay which looks like a beach you might find in the Caribbean surrounded by gorgeous mountains and lots of sheep.
Keel Beach is a Blue Flag beach and a conservation area containing one of Europe’s most unique habitats. It is a priority Annex I habitat listed on the EU Habitats Directive, which means it is afforded special protection and conservation.
From the beach, you can see the Mweelaun Cliffs and Slievemore where you will find the Deserted Village. If you look to the south you will spot the Bill an isolated arrangement of 3 rock stacks. Keel beach is heaven for surfers and various other water sports.
One of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland can be found on Achill. Keem Bay is a first-class summer destination for everyone. Tourist flock here to the beach as do locals for the easy swimming waters and gorgeous walkable beach.
The Deserted Village
Achill is of course also famous for its Deserted Village which was abandoned in 1845 and the village is open to the public.
The Croaghaun Cliffs
The Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland that are not actually on the Island of Ireland. That would be the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal that are the highest land cliffs.
The cliffs at Croaghaun stand at a mind-boggling 2,257 feet/687 meters and are virtually free of tourists. The cliff walks will guide you to some staggerly beautiful views and an ancient Corrie Lake which is a glacially formed lake.
The Lost Valley
The Lost Valley is a northern corner of Mayo near Louisburgh and it is owned by a family who have farmed the land for over a century. Before the Bourke family owned the land they were one of the families evicted during the Great Famine.
Considered one of the finest memorials to the Great Famine you an visit the ruined village and see the ridges of potato fields that have lain undisturbed for nearly 2 centuries. The Lost Valley is now an active working farm where you can experience lamb feeding, sheepdog demonstrations and sheep shearing sessions when in season.
Moyne Abbey was a friary that was founded in 1460 the ruins are impressive by Irish standards. It is among the most extensive and impressive remains of Franciscan friaries in Ireland.
Interesting features in the ruins include window tracery – the only form of decoration present in the church – the central tower, which was enlarged at some point to accommodate a newel stair, the cloister arcade, with dumb-bell piers and the west doorway, in the classical style of the seventeenth century.
Then, in 1590, the English governor of Connacht, a prick named Sir Richard Bingham, burned the Abbey.
Not long after, in 1582, an old man named Felim O’Hara was killed by cowardly English soldiers in front of the Abbey’s high altar. Discover more of Moyne Abbey’s history here.
Westport House lies on a site that has been home to manor houses and castle since the 1500s. Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s Pirate Queen built one of her castle on the site of Westport House. Today the dungeons her castle was built upon remain in the current house which was built in 1730 by her kin the Brownes.
Within the house, you can tour 6 permanent exhibitions and 30 rooms filled with Ireland’s treasures.
Take a walk around the extensive formal gardens surrounding the house or do the 3.5 km looped walk to admire the parkland, lake and woodland grounds.
Birds of Prey Show
Westport House also offers the chance to experience the animal life of a country estate with a Birds of Prey show for groups of 15 or more people or a private hawk walk. You’ll never forget the experience of having a falcon fly in at speed and land on your arm.
Great Western Greenway
The World Class Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. Completely traffic-free cycling and walking trail it follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937.
Whether you bike it walk it or even take an electric bike this heavenly trail is absolutely gorgeous. With small cafes along the way to indulge in some cream tea, you couldn’t ask for a more relaxing day.
The Gourmet Greenway, a food trail along the Great Western Greenway (a 43.5km walking and cycling route between Westport and Achill Island) was created by Mulranny Park Hotel.
It consists of eighteen local food producers who have collaborated to showcase the area’s delicious artisan foods.
Visit the Mulranny Park Hotel or Newport House where you enjoy the foods produced by the likes of
- Michael Flanagan (Achill Island Turbot),
- Jerry Hasset (Keem Bay Fish Products),
- Seán Kelly (Kelly’s Butchers, Newport),
- Andrew Pelham Burn (Carrowholly Cheese, Westport),
- Padraig Gannon (Croagh Patrick Seafoods, Newport)
- Tom Dougherty (Curran Blue Trout Farm, Mulranny)
A few miles north of Ballycastle, you can hike out to one of Ireland’s most iconic sites. Downpatrick Head and the Dun Briste sea stack. This is not an easy hike if you are mobility challenged as it is on a rough gravel and grass path. The walk itself for me was around 15 minutes but I’m pretty slow I would imagine it would take around 10 minutes or so if you are a fast walker. It can get very windy out there though so be prepare.
The name Downpatrick is derived from a time when St Patrick himself founded a church here. You can still see the ruins of the church building, a stone cross and holy well here today.
Dun Briste sea stack
Dun Briste or in English The Broken Fort is a rock formation that formed from the surrounding cliffs at Downpatrick over 350 million years ago.
There are few folk tales about how the sea-stack became separated from the mainland. According to one of them, on the place where the stack now stands used to live an ogre Geodruisge, He was a most obnoxious character, often making life difficult for St. Patrick, who used to pray at the church on Downpatrick Head. The saint became agitated, and prayed to God to get rid of this tyrant. The next day the stack with the ogre’s residence was separated from the mainland. Geodruisg couldn’t escape and so he vanished.
Dun Briste was once inhabited and today contains the remains of a medieval house, walls, cultivation ridges, and a corn grinding stone.
The Mayo Céide Field is the biggest stone age site in the world. The site dates back over 5000 years and covers 1500 hectares. You will see stone walls, tombs and field systems set among some of the most spectacular rock formations found in Ireland.
Westport is one of Ireland’s prettiest and charming villages. Streets lined with colourful flowers decorate the village in the spring and summer months. Lively square to people watch from and great traditional pubs to have a pint and listen to live music abound.
Westport takes its name from the Gaelic Cathair na Mart which means “The City of Oxen” in connection with its agricultural past, and its specialization in the breeding of cattle.
Clew Bay is located just south of Westport and the views of the island drumlins are magnificent.
Clew Bay was the home of the O’Malley family and the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley who commanded a fleet of ships and met with Queen Elizabeth at one time. The family had castles on Clare Island, Achill and at Rockfleet which is were it is said that Grace died.
The Abbey can be found a stone’s throw from Newport and it dates to 1469. Founded by a Dominican Sir Richard de Burgo who gave up his lordship to become a Friar. The Abbey was built without the Pope’s permission and it took nearly 20 years for the Pope to forgive the Friars for building the Abbey.
Rockfleet Castle is also known as Carraigahowley, an English interpretation of the Irish Carraig an Chabhlaigh, meaning “rock of the fleet”. The tower house was built around the middle of the 16th century. When Grace divorced her second husband in 1566 she moved her ships and army to Rockfleet. Grace gave birth to a son Tiobaid na Loinge or Toby of the Ships onboard her ship which was later attacked by Barbery pirates. On her return to Rockfleet, she reunited with Richard to protect her people from the English.
Legend has it that the door in the highest room in the tower was where the rope to her ship was tied to her bed. It is believed that she died at Rockfleet around 1603 at the age of 73.
Sitting within the bay is the island known as Dorinish which was bought by John Lennon in 1967. He returned to the island once more with his wife Yoko Ono before his death in 1980. Yoko sold the island for £30,000 in 1984, and it is widely reported that she donated the proceeds of the sale to an Irish orphanage.
Legends in these part say that Clew Bay has 365 islands but the truth is that the large number of drumlins in the east of the bay were considered islands but in fact are not.
Croagh Patrick has been a holy site and an important Christian pilgrimage site in Mayo for more than a thousand years. Magnificent views of Clew Bay and the surrounding south Mayo countryside are to be had from all stages of the ascent of the mountain.
Ballintubber Abbey was founded by King Cathal Crovdearg O’Conor – Cathal Mór of the wine-red hand. He was of the royal race of the O’Connors, King of Connacht and notable patrons of the arts.
The legends say that Cathal was working in Ballintubber for a man who treated him very kindly. When he left the area he vowed to return and repay the man. Years later when he came to the throne he paid a visit and asked what he could do in return for the kindness shown tohim.
He was asked to restore the local church which was collapsing. Cathal promised to build a beautiful new church. On his next visit to the area, he asked about the church and was told it was never built. He discovered that the church had by mistake been built in Roscommon instead of Mayo. And the story goes that the king vowed to build another church seven times more magnificent in Ballintubber, Mayo, and that is how Ballintubber got its abbey.
Located around 30 minutes or so from Croagh Patrick you will find the Tourmakeady Woods that is often let off the tourist guides. The perfect place for a ramble in the forest you will pass a lovely waterfall and hopefully catch sight of some of those rare Irish red squirrels.
There are three Irish-speaking areas in County Mayo; Erris, Achill island and Toormakeady. Erris is located in North-West Mayo, Achill Island is directly south of Erris and Tourmakeady is along the border with County Galway. There are nearly 2,500 daily Irish speakers in these areas.
The Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre, is situated in Murrisk on the Pilgrim’s path at the base of Croagh Patrick mountain at the rear of the public car park. The facilities include a coffee shop and restaurant along with a gift shop.
Don’t forget when in Murrisk to visit the Famine Ship a bronze memorial, with skeletal figures symbolising the many people who died in the “Coffin Ships” that set sail from Ireland in a desperate hope of escaping to a better life.
Benwee Head An Bhinn Bhuí or in English Benwee Head is located in a remote, quiet region in the north-west of Mayo. Here cliffs more than 250 meters high tower over the waters of the Atlantic ocean.
The small parking area at the Children of Lir sculpture is a perfect starting point for hikes to Kid island or up to the actual Benwee Head.
Very much off the beaten path is Erris with its stunning white sand beaches loved by surfers to its gorgeous cliffs that beg to be hiked. This is a gaeltacht region where folks speak Irish.
A hiking trail goes around the cape, surrounded by unspoiled, beautiful nature and rewarding hikers with splendid views on Broadhaven Bay and the wild Atlantic.
Rosserk Abbey is around 10 km north of Ballina. These are the ruins of a Franciscan Friary which was destroyed by fire in 1590 which was only 150 years after it was built.
North Mayo Sculpture Trail
Tír Sáile the North Mayo Sculpture Trail is the largest public art installation in Ireland. The work began in 1993 celebrating Mayo 5000 which was a year-long cultural celebration inspired by the impact of humans on the Mayo landscape over 50 centuries.
the trail consists of 11 works and begins in Killala and follows the coastal route through Ballycastle, Belmullet and down to Black Sod.
Not all of the sculptures remain in place; some, never designed to be permanent works, have been worn away, others removed. Others had fallen into neglect but in 2018, 25 years after the launch of Tír Sáile, remedial work has been carried out on some of the works and new signage installed.
The sculpture is located at Ballinaboy visitors’ farm and celebrates the long tradition of local sheep farming, sustained on the marshy terrain of the region. The work was constructed from Lacken sandstone, together with local granite. Each form is made up of a number of stone layers, which reflect the natural stratification of the land.
This is the last part of the sculpture trail and it is a stone circle made from the local granite which was on the site. The artist relocated them into a spiral form in the form of a twist with 22 stepping stones leading up to it.
Ionad Deirbhile Heritage Center
The Ionad Deirbhile Heritage Center works diligently to preserve Mayo’s history and provides a place where those whose families left Ireland during the diaspora can find their roots.
Over 3300 Irish emigrants left Mayo for a new life in the new world of Canada and the US. You can find out if one of your ancestors left on one of the 11 ships that sailed from North West Mayo here at the Blacksod Bay Assisted Emigration Database.
Countless pilgrims have flocked to the Knock Shrine over the past 140 years since the vision in 1879. According to the legend, 15 individuals from the Village of Knock witnessed the apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St John the Evangelist with a lamb and a cross on an altar within the local church.
This took place in the middle of the pouring rain and the witnesses watched for 2 hours as the apparition appeared to stay completely dry.
You can take tours that are run daily and visit the Museum where you can learn more about the witnesses and the miracles that have taken place at Knock Shrine ever since the visitation.
National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
This is Ireland’s award-winning National Folk Museum where you can experience how folks lived in rural Ireland between the 1850s and 1950s. There are some brilliant permanent exhibit alongside temporary ones and there are programs for all ages.
Castle Stays – Things to do in Mayo
Surrounded by 100 acres of magical woodlands the luxurious Mount Falcon Country House Hotel is located on the west bank of the River Moy. The Estate was created from the love of one young man for his bride who felt she deserved a “castle to live in”. The jewel in the crown of Mount Falcon is its adjoining two miles of fishing rights on the River Moy. Famous for its salmon pools, it is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most bountiful salmon rivers.
One of Ireland’s greatest castle hotels Ashford Castle is the epitome of luxury, service with amazing facilities available for their guests. Ashford Castle was established as a hotel in 1939 and became renowned for its “country pursuits” for the rich and famous. This is where many of the stars of The Quiet Man stayed while filming in Cong just down the road.
It’s a very grand place and for a small fee, you can even visit if you aren’t staying in the Castle of the lodge. Tour the area, take a Hawk Walk you can even fish, hunt and learn to shoot at the Castle. Of course, there are advantages to staying in a luxurious Castle like this you can unwind in the premier cinema room, with free sweets and popcorn. or simply enjoy a range of estate activities including tennis, golf, cycling, billiards, walking with a map of suggested routes or meet the Estate’s Irish Wolfhounds when they come to visit the hotel each morning.
As a member of the public you can visit the grounds of the Castle for a fee of €10 Euros, just ask the gatekeeper for a map. The public is also welcome at Cullen’s at the Cottage, a casual eating-place set in a thatched cottage with views of the castle. An Afternoon Tea runs from around €40 Euros in the castle itself, again you will need reservations.
Private hawk walks begin at €95.00 for one participant €150.00 for two participants. Rooms start at €325.00 and suites go up to €3,250.00. Of course, this does include a few Ashford extras a Full Irish breakfast, Complimentary relaxation pool, steam room and fitness studio, and Complimentary green fees, for the 9 hole golf course.
Ashford Castle Lodge
For a slightly less expensive stay why not give the Lodge at Ashford Castle a try? Set within the 350-acre estate the Lodge overlooks Lough Corrib and offers comfortable but luxurious country house charm.
Stays at the Lodge start at €165.75 depending on the season and go upwards to €495.00 for a double suite. You still receive complimentary Full Irish Breakfast, complimentary green fees and free bike hire but must pay extra for use of any facilities at the Castle Spa.
Belleek Castle was built between 1825 and finished in 1831 for the cost of £10,000 It was taken over by the Mayo County Council in the 1950s and they used the Manor House as a hospital & military barracks and then abandoned it. In 1961 Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, bought the property beautifully restored it and opened it as a hotel.
Turin Castle is a luxury self-catering venue near Ballinrobe in County Mayo Ireland. It is a unique medieval castle set against the backdrop of picturesque countryside. Turin Castle Ireland had been abandoned for at least two hundred and fifty years up until its restoration in 1997. It is a privately owned castle and sleeps a maximum of 12 people. There is a great hall for meals and catering can be arranged.
Whiskey tours – things to do in Mayo
Connaught Irish Whiskey Distillery
Connacht Distillery is located in Belleek, Ballina and there is a stunning castle where you can stay in while taking your Irish Whiskey tour.
The Connacht Distillery sits on the banks of the beautiful River Moy where the river widens into the Moy Estuary in Ballina, County Mayo. The guided distillery tours bring you through a process of making whiskey and will help you understand why we are so passionate about single pot still Irish whiskey. They set up the whiskey tours to be small and interactive so that you can really enjoy the experience without feeling rushed. Tickets are €12.50.
There is also the Connacht Craft Experience which is a distillery tour followed by a sampling of their Ballyhoo whiskey and a Straw Boys Irish Poitín in Mullarkey’s bar. An adult ticket is €17.50. The Connacht Ultimate Craft Experience is €22.50 and includes a sampling of 3 of their Irish Whiskeys.
Nephin Irish Whiskey
Nephin Irish Whiskey’s vision is to create authentically made, peated single malts in a small village on the Wild Atlantic Way using Nephin mountain water, locally grown barley, locally cut turf, then triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills and matured in unique casks handcrafted in Nephin Cooperage.
The Distillery and visitor’s centre is under construction, but they welcome visitors in the shop across the street from the distillery. Whiskey tasting can be arranged by special appointment at nearby Beleek Castle.
And now you see why visiting Mayo should be on your bucket list. There are so many things to do in Mayo you can lose track of time. Simply driving down some of the country roads with outstanding views of the ocean and the huge banks of purple rhodendrums will make you fall in love with this county.
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