Maigh Eo Plain of the Yew
Welcome to Mayo, a county of wild beauty, a special peace and deep tranquility – like
no other. Mayo is rich with history, culture and spirituality. From the charm of Westport to the rugged wilds of the Erris region, Mayo is a treat for the senses where unstoppable atlantic gales can shake the soul awake!
Mayo offers the full fresh west of Ireland experience. Here you will find pristine waters and wide expanses of open countryside along the Atlantic route. Mayo is truly a place that speaks to the soul and definitely one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. Here one can enjoy some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in Ireland.
Approaching from Clew bay the road winds through Louisburgh where you can choose to access Clare Island and Inishturk. Traveling onwards you will approach the picturesque Norman town of Westport, the mystical holy mountain of Croagh Patrick rising behind it. Further west you will come to the wilds of Achill, Ireland’s largest island. With Ballycroy National Park on your right the road eventually winds its way along beautiful countryside towards the Belmullet peninsula and the Erris region. From Westport you will travel more than 200 km before you arrive at Mayo’s county town of Ballina – through fabulous unspoiled and breath-taking scenery.
Erris in the north west of Mayo was voted the best place to “Go Wild”. For those who enjoy the great outdoors there are many opportunities to take in the pristine and unpolluted air. With its ten fabulous blue flag beaches, and nine green coast beaches, loop walks and of course the famous Great Western Greenway. Travel by bike along the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill Island for a truly unforgettable blast of wild Atlantic air. At 42 kilometers, this is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. Mayo offers unlimited access to the vast and unspoiled beauty of nature. In fact, it is recommended that you avail of every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors when in Mayo be it on land or sea!
Clare Island was the sixteenth century stronghold of Gráinne Mhaol, “Grace the Bald” the “Pirate Queen”. Her influence is clear all along the Mayo coast as far as Galway- she once ruled the waves on Ireland’s west coast. One of her favourite castles is Rockfleet which can be seen on the northern shore of Clew Bay. Grace is buried in the Cistercian Abbey on Clare Island under her family motto : Terra Marique Potens –“Invincible on land or sea”.
Croagh Patrick, standing 2,510ft high just outside Westport, is Ireland’s holy mountain. Named after Ireland’s Patron Saint, it is said that, in 441A.D. St. Patrick himself climbed to the top of “The Reek” as it is known locally, and fasted there for the forty days of Lent. During that time, he is said to have cast out all snakes or poisonous things away from Ireland, into the sea. It takes two and a half hours to climb to the summit. On the plateau at the top of Croagh Patrick you can visit a stone oratory, a sanctuary dating back to the fifth or sixth century. Here it is easy to see why this has been a place of worship since before the advent of Christianity. The views are simply breath-taking. Magnificent views of Clew Bay and the surrounding south Mayo countryside are to be had from all stages of the ascent of the mountain. Come here on the last Sunday in July to join the thousands who travel from all over the world to climb the mountain. Archaeologists have also discovered that this mountain was also of tremendous importance in pre-Christian Ireland. At Ballintubber Abbey you can visit a church that has been in daily use since 1216 – it is the only church in Ireland founded by an Irish monarch, King Cathal ‘O Conor.
Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist and St. Joseph in Knock in 1879 brought international attention to the region. Today Knock is accepted by the Church as a Marian Shrine and both Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa have made their pilgrimages to this special place. Despite the thousands who flock to visit the Marian Shrine here every year, the town still retains its quiet peace and dignity.
Co. Mayo is a remarkable county – it is the heart of Ireland’s true wild west. No strangers themselves to the wild west, both John Wayne and Richard Harris have graced Mayo’s silver shores. The village of Leenaun, was the location for “The Field”, a film that starred Harris, on the southern shore of Mayo’s Killary harbour. With Maureen ‘O Hara, John Wayne filmed “The Quiet Man” here in the quiet Mayo village of Cong. Two miles east of Cong you can visit Moytura House where the infamous Irish writer and wit, Oscar Wilde spent many a happy summer of his childhood .
In North Mayo you can experience the unique landscape of Erris where towering cliffs join ancient settlement alongside a ferocious ocean with its crashing waves. This was voted the ‘best place to go wild’. Here, the Céide Fields marks a point of discovery where mankind once tilled silent fields. It is the most extensive Neolithic site in the world dating back some five and a half thousand years. Look out for the small hamlet of Cillgalligan, with panoramic views of this spectacular coastal region.
As Ireland’s third largest county with an area of 5,585 square Kilometers, only Leitrim has les s people per square kilometer. Here you can truly find peace and quiet. The human is certainly dwarfed in this archetypal Irish landscape, from rolling hills and bogs of heather, to the mighty cliffs of north Mayo’s spectacular coastline.
Such low population is a legacy of famine times. You can find traces of times long past in the grassy drills and ruined homesteads that dot the beautiful Mayo countryside. Sadly, Mayo like much of rural Ireland, continues to be affected by mass emigration. Today’s population of 24,000 is but an echo of the 400,000 people who once called this scenic region of Ireland, “home”.
When the potato crop failed in 1845, people died in their 1,000’s. The lazy-beds that can be seen today are all that remain of once-bustling farmsteads and the families that once lived here. Their absence is particularly felt in North West Mayo where, along valleys and hillsides, children once played.
Sixteen kilometers south of Castlebar town you will find Moore Hall, once the residence of George Moore(1852-1933). Moore was friend of W.B. Yeats and a writer in his own right. Here you can enjoy a place alive with atmosphere and evocative of history. Moore was himself a Catholic who became wealthy through trade with Spain. In 1798, Moore’s son had the distinction of becoming Ireland’s first president – he was declared president of the Republic of Connaught by General Humbert in what is remembered as “the year of the French”. This was one of Ireland’s early strikes at revolution.
Mayo boasts some of the finest scenery in Ireland, far from commercial centers and the trappings of our modern world here one can enjoy deep peace and a tranquility that is rare. With its vast stretches of open countryside, ancient blanket bogs and unpolluted beaches, the Erris region is considered one of the best places to “Go Wild” in Ireland. Travel out to this fabulous frontier to where some of the first settlers arrived in Ireland at the Céide Fields over 5,000 years ago. The stone walls of these early farmers are still visible today.
A mecca for angling enthusiasts many flock to the river Moy in the town of Ballina every year in the hope of landing a salmon. Shore angling is popular too and with numerous white sandy beaches. From the quiet shores of Achill island to the spectacular Belmullet peninsula you can be sure of fresh air and a new perspective in Mayo.
Seafood is also a speciality here, with local fishermen returning with the catch of the day which is served in local restaurants from Westport to Ballina. A local speciality too is Boxty, a unique kind of potato cake whose basic ingredients are potatoes, flour and a pinch of salt – watch out for local variations!
Take a dip in the crystal waters that lap on Mayo’s shores or head out on a boat trip to explore some of the ancient monastic sites to be found on Mayo’s many Islands –these include Inis and Inis Glora where the Children of Lir are said to have spent 300 years living as swans.
Europe’s largest offshore island, Achill Island, is easily accessible by the Michael Davitt Bridge named after the founder of Ireland’s nineteenth century Land League which sought to abolish landlordism, demanding “the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland”. Here you can experience the highest cliffs in all of Europe which rise a shocking 2,192 feet above sea level. The windswept peninsula of Belmullet also shares a special Island feeling, connected by a narrow bridge with the sea. Clare Island we have mentioned earlier, was home to Ireland’s “Pirate Queen”. Visiting one of Mayo’s Island’s is a great opportunity to experience the thrill and exhilaration of travel by boat, to ride the salty waves of Ireland’s wild Atlantic is to relish life itself.
The seaside town of Enniscrone just outside Ballina has long been a holiday maker’s choice destination. Enniscrone’s seaweed baths continue to offer visitors the luxurious and health giving balm of the ocean’s finest produce. In local Mayo shops, you can also purchase locally foraged seaweeds which are an excellent and nutritional addition to any diet; pan fried dillisk “crisps” are a particular favourite.
Mayo will bring you to yourself, it will test you with its awe and beauty- it’s vast open spaces.
Here you can find a deep peace and enjoy a breath of the freshest of fresh air.
Come and experience the west, at its wildest!
***(Please enclose within a green text circle for Erris : )
In a struggle that has been compared to that of the mythical Tuatha De Dannan and the invading Formorians,or indeed David and Goliath, Erris has been a setting for questions of national conscience and international intrigue. The characters associated with this most mystical part of Ireland weave a compelling story. On one side the local people who wish to preserve the health of their environment for future generations. A multinational oil and gas company, with the acquiescence of the Irish government, is a formidable foe in this tale – choosing to build a gas processing facility on-land rather than a customary practice of processing at sea. Local concerns have fostered solidarity between the people of this remote region of Erris, and the resistance of ordinary people in Australia, in the Niger Delta and even struggles in the Antarctic – as local communities seek to raise awareness of the safety and environmental risks associated with “the great gas give away”. An alternative we have seen in the growing grass-roots Transition Towns Initiative is to localise energy through renewable resources. Among those who can see the vulnerability engendered by our dependence on fossil fuels, it is agreed that it is in all of our interests both to create local and sustainable solutions for our needs for energy, ensuring a green future for all. Through an award-winning film “The Pipe”, this story has come to international attention.