Did you know that Mayo boasts the longest coastline in Ireland? That the vibrant town of Westport was voted the best place to live in by The Irish Times.
Mayo features some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery. From walking on the beach to hiking in the mountain’s there is no doubt this big county has everything. It is home to many unique coastal beaches, imposing mountains, rugged islands, wonderful bike trails.
With Travel Restrictions gradually lifting- we can breathe a sigh of relief. With our newfound freedom, it’s time to stretch our limbs and go further. Given its size and all that it has to offer, it would take a few holidays to cover Mayo. This month we will begin the first of our four-part series of activities to do in County Mayo. First, let’s start with SouthWest Mayo.
Mayo boasts numerous beaches most of which are remote and unspoiled. Each opening onto the Atlantic with views of the local islands (Inishturk, Inishbofin, Clare, and Achill Island). Here are two beaches that will have you returning for more.
- Silver strand (The furthest is 25km from Louisburgh town) It’s very popular with families because of its sheltered dunes and wide shoreline.
- White Strand, Thallabawn, off the beaten track. It’s 6km in length and up to 1km of walking from the car park to the ocean. A large part of the beach is separated by the owennadornaun stream. Driving through the river is prohibited because it is very deep. A pair of wellies is highly recommended (It’s worth it trust me)
Located on the southwest corner of Clew Bay is the quaint town of Louisburgh. It can be approached from Westport (21km’s) and Leenane (19km’s). Built on the Bunowen river in 1795 by Lord Altamont. The town still maintains its eighteenth-century building style with a touch of modernism. This delightful region encompasses the most beautiful and natural scenery. There are many eateries in the town. I’d recommend getting a takeaway lunch and coffee then head for the Bunowen river. There is a comfortable seating area that skirts the river. Here you can unwind while sipping the sound of the river.
3-Scenic drive- Doo lough-Killary Harbour
If driving is your thing and the scenery is your fix, then Mayo will not disappoint. All you have to do is pick a destination. I’d recommend taking a drive out to Doo lough Valley, Killary Harbour and Aasleagh falls. This history-laden area and its spectacular mountains will take your breath away. If setting out from Westport town take the R335 route. The windy road will not be the only thing to make your head spin.
- The first stop is the famine memorial adjacent to the small layby. This simple stone cross is a reminder of the tragedy that took place during the Irish famine in 1849. While paying your respects it is a good opportunity to take pictures of the Mweelrea Sheeffry mountains and lake.
- Driving further on you might be tempted to stop at the lovely Delphi Silver Food Truck. This yummy eatery is direct across from Doo lough lake (Irish for black lake).
- Heading onwards you’ll be met by another set of mountains encasing the wonderful Killary harbour. One of three Fjords found in Ireland. This Glacial inlet forms a natural border between the county of Mayo and Galway. I’d recommend parking near the Bundorragha Pier. There you can walk along the foot of Mweelrea enjoying the unique combination of mountain and sea.
- Back on the road, get ready for more breath-taking vistas. This elevated d road is one for accelerating the heart rate. Next stop Aasleagh falls. This scenic cascade stands at 3.5 meters. Located on the Erriff River just before the river meets the Killary Harbour. I’d recommend you park in at the layby across the road. There is a narrow trail that will take you to the waterfall. In the summertime, you may reach and touch the salmon and trout trying to swim upstream. The Oscar nominee movie “The Field” shot scenes around the fall (The infamous scene where the Bull McCabe struggled with the American)
- Exit onto the N59 and turn left as this scenic road winds towards the town of Westport.
This iconic mountain dominates the magnificent Clew Bay. Named after the patron saint of Ireland, ‘St Patrick’. Who fasted upon the mountain for 40 days and forty nights in 441 A.D. This is one of Europe’s most important Christian pilgrimages. The Reek (known locally) has been a pilgrim place for Christians for hundreds of years. According to google maps, Croagh Patrick is 9.7km from the town of Westport while 11.8km from Louisburgh. If you manage to reach the summit, you will get a panoramic view of the 365 islands of Clew Bay-hopefully on a day when the mountain is not shrouded in mist.
I was born 10kms outside the lovely town of Westport. I have seen it grow to become one of the most vibrant towns in Ireland. Westport was planned and designed in the 18th century by William Leeson. There is plenty to do as the town has so much to offer. I would recommend taking a leisurely walk around as there are many wonderful landmarks such as the clock, the Octagon, Westport House and the Quay. For those who love food, Westport will not disappoint. There are many eateries, restaurants, and pubs. You will be spoiled from a continental breakfast to a seafood platter. I’d recommend driving out to the Quay. From there you can purchase ice cream from The Harbour store, then go for a walk along Clew Bay harbour.
Were you aware that Mayo has hundreds of Islands spread along its shores? That Achill is Ireland’s largest Island.
The best way to get to Achill is by car otherwise you can get the 456 Bus Eireann, from Mill Street in Westport (Beware schedules may be impacted due to Covid-19). Biking along the Greenway is another healthy option. I’d recommend you set aside a day or longer if it suits you. Achill has many beaches, hills, cliffs, eateries, water sports, horse riding as well as accommodation on offer. You won’t be disappointed.
For those who want to take to the sea and ditch the car, I recommend heading to Clare Island. From Louisburgh drive via R378 to Roonagh pier outside the town (According to Google Map it’s 7.3km’s). From there you will take the Ferry, which runs many sailings in the Spring and summer. The journey takes 20 minutes, which in itself is an adventure. I’d recommend taking the early boat. You can book online or at the desk on the day. Similar to Achill but smaller, the island is a great place for walking and cycling. Do forget to take your togs as there is a lovely beach near the pier. Both Islands have very good and up to date website.