Mayo Attractions and Activities
National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
Home to the national folk life collection, the National Museum of Ireland Country Life, in Castlebar County Mayo, is a branch of the National Museum of Ireland.
Winner of Museum of the Year in 2001, visitors to the museum’s exhibition galleries are invited to experience the story of Irish country life between 1850 and 1950 through an innovative combination of artefacts and displays, archival video footage and interactive screens.
The National Museum of Ireland Country Life, is located in the spectacular grounds of Turlough Park amid magnificent gardens and an artificial lake and located alongside the restored Turlough Park House and its adjoining courtyards.
Visitors can enjoy a range of public programmes including weekly craft demonstrations and workshops. Admission to these events is free but booking is necessary.
Enjoy freshly baked produce and speciality teas and coffees at the Museum Café. The gift shop stocks a broad range of specialist books and Museum-branded and hand crafted gifts to suit all budgets.
Kiltimagh – The Artisan Village
Kiltimagh is an Artisan Village and birthplace of Raifteiri the blind Irish poet. Situated in the heart of East Mayo, 22.5 km east of Castlebar, the town’s interesting museum is housed in its former railway station.
Much of Kiltimagh’s bygone charm as a bustling market town is still evident in the architectural outline of the town, the market square and the shop façades.
The trades and crafts of the many artisans once found there are being revived to provide a living, historical experience.
Among the interesting attractions to visit in Kiltimagh are the Town Museum and the Sculpture Park, which can be found in the grounds of the tastefully restored old railway station.
Kiltimagh Station opened as part of the Limerick to Sligo line, in 1894, and eventually closed to passenger traffic in 1963.
Now the old goods store has been converted into a museum while two railway carriages were acquired to symbolise the thousands of local emigrants. The once-derelict Station Master’s house is now an Art Centre with the work of local artists and sculptors on display.
Quiet Man Cottage Museum
In 1951 John Ford’s greatest movie ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald was made in the west of Ireland.
Much of the film centred around the village of Cong on the Mayo-Galway border.
Located by the river at Circular Road, Cong, between actual locations used for the filming, the thatched cottage’s ground floor has been designed as an exact replica of ‘White-o-Morn’ Cottage.
Painstaking effort has ensured that all the furnishings, artifacts, costumes etc are authentic reproductions. The four poster bed, tables and chairs, treasured by Mary Kate Danaher; thatched roof; emerald green half-door and whitewashed front combine to charm visitors.
The Quiet Man Cottage Museum is a novel concept which will give the visitor a total Quiet Man experience as if they were actually on the movie set.
Foxford Woollen Mills Visitor Centre
Foxford Woollen Mills Visitor Centre, in County Mayo, is where master craftsman meets modern Irish design.
Originally founded by an Irish Sister of Charity in 1892, the fledgling business overcame many challenges down through the years in order to survive.
The area around Foxford was considered to be one of the poorest in the west of Ireland in the late nineteenth century. Mother Agnes Morrogh-Bernard felt the best way to combat these poor economic conditions was to establish viable local industries.
Foxford was built on the banks of River Moy and this inspired the idea for building a woollen mill. The River Moy provided the power, the sheep farmed locally provided the wool and the locals provided the labour.
Today, it is a thriving mill with master craftspeople creating beautiful pieces for sale worldwide.
The Visitor Centre tells the story of Mother Agnes Morrogh-Bernard (1842-1932), who founded the Mills and made Foxford synonymous throughout the world with high-quality tweeds, rugs and blankets. The Woollen Mill Tour is free of charge and available in German, French, Italian, Irish and English.
Visitors are taken through parts of the working mill as it is run today, where they can watch the tradition, design and craftsmanship entailed in creating each distinctive Foxford product.
Dine in the gourmet cafe or browse the jewellery workshop, art gallery displaying the works of local artists. The bright and airy craft shop houses a treasure trove of unique gifts.
Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre
The Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre is sited in Murrisk, on the Pilgrim’s Path, at the base of the 762 metre high Croagh Patrick.
The distinctive cone shaped Croagh Patrick towers majestically above the surrounding countryside and provides magnificent views of Clew Bay, Connemara, Clare Island, Achill Island and south Mayo.
A video and photo gallery of Croagh Patrick and its ever changing landscapes can be seen at the visitor centre, which is opposite the National Famine Monument.
The Pilgrim’s Path is a 7km route winding through this rich archaeological area. It is said that Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days on the mountain’s summit in 441 AD. climbing the mountain is a custom which has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation.
Sturdy boots or shoes and rain gear are advisable while the use of a walking stick is encouraged for walkers intending to tackle Croagh Patrick.
Granuaile Visitor Centre
The maritime exploits of the O’Malleys and O’Flahertys have become the stuff of legend. There most famous member was Grace O’Malley (1530-1600), Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan and a pirate in 16th century Ireland. She is commonly known by her nickname Granuaile or Gráinne Mhaol (‘Bald Gráinne’ a reference to her close-cropped hair as a young woman).
The pirate queen is associated with the west of Ireland, particularly with the western coastline around Clew Bay. She lived in the turbulent times which saw the death throes of Gaelic Ireland and witnessed Elizabeth I of England’s plantation policy take permanent effect on the country’s laws and customs. She battled against the English and ruled the Baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk around Clew Bay in County Mayo. Her exploits at sea are legendary and are recounted in Elizabethan state papers.
The Granuaile Visitor Centre tells her story. Please telephone in advance to make sure centre is open on the day you would like to call.
Knock Museum, in County Mayo, captures the unique story of the Knock Apparition of 1879. It profiles the fifteen ordinary people who witnessed an extraordinary event which saw the transformation of Knock, a small rural village in County Mayo, into an international Marian Shrine.
The museum also places the apparition in the context of life in 1879, from living in the thatched house to working in the forge. Other themes include the Knock Shrine Society of Volunteers, Monsignor James Horan, cures at the shrine and a unique collection of pilgrims’ personal memories and stories.
Daily masses and confessions take place at Knock Shrine and there are daily guided prayer sessions from April to October. Knock Summer Youth Festival is held in June and Knock Novena is held in August.
A new museum Café, ‘Café Le Chéile’ is open from 10am to 6pm daily. Knock Museum is a fully-accredited museum in the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland.
Céide Fields Visitor Centre & Site
The amazing geology, archaeology, botany and wildlife of this North Mayo region is interpreted at the Céide Fields Visitor Centre, with the aid of an audio-visual presentation and exhibitions.
The Centre, at Ballycastle, is an unusual part limestone, part peat-clad, pyramid-shaped building, with a glazed lantern apex, and was opened in 1993 by the Office of Public Works. It was joint winner of the inaugural Irish Building of the Year Award, organised by The Sunday Times with the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI).
Céide Fields contain a 1,500 hectare archaeological site of stone walls, field systems, enclosures and tombs, dating from about 5,000 years ago, which have been preserved beneath the bog. It is the most extensive stone age site in the world. The wild flora of the bog is of international importance and is bounded by some of the most spectacular rock formations and cliffs in Ireland.
As much of the tour is outdoors, visitors are advised to wear weather protective clothing and shoes suitable for walking over uneven terrain.
Michael Davitt Museum
Born, evicted and buried in this village, the Michael Davitt Museum tells the story of Straide’s most famous son. The Museum is housed in the beautifully restored village church in Foxford, County Mayo.
Known as the ‘Father of the Land League’ as the founder of this movement, Michael Davitt (1846–1906) became known for his humanitarian work throughout the world and also campaigned ceaselessly for land rents to be reduced.
The Michael Davitt Museum contains an extensive collection of documents, photos, land acts, letters, postcards, posters and other items connected with Michael Davitt’s life. An excellent audio visual presentation tells of Davitt’s Irish and Lancashire years, plus his career as a Westminster MP.
Davitt is buried in the adjoining graveyard.
Westport Heritage Centre
Westport Heritage Centre showcases the heritage of this picturesque town in County Mayo.
The Centre displays many of the superb photographs from the Lawrence Collection that truly bring the past to life. The centrepiece is a wonderful interactive scale model of the town, featuring individual video screens and illumination of interesting areas linked to a voice over in a selection of languages. You can choose from Gaelic (Irish), English, French, Italian or German.
The town’s past is traced back to its origins including connections with the Browne Family of Westport House, whose own history has been interwoven with Westport for more than half a millennium. The most colourful member of the family was, without a doubt, Granuaile or Grace O’Malley, the infamous Pirate Queen who ruled the high seas in the 1500’s. The history of Westport House itself is also displayed.
Some of the beautifully illustrated wall panels and a relief model explore Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain and its history which stretches back to pre Christianity. Known as Cruachan Aigle, it owes its name change to the 40 day fast of St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, on its summit. A church stands on the summit today and on Reek Sunday in July thousands upon thousands of pilgrims, some barefoot, make the arduous climb to the summit.
Clew Bay Heritage Centre
The Clew Bay Heritage Centre, housed in a 19th century building, contains a nostalgic collection of artefacts, documents and photographs connected with the general Westport area in County Mayo.
The Centre also provides a genealogical research facility, complete with an extensive computer database, based on church records, schools registers, rent rolls, cemetery records, census returns, local newspapers and street directories. These records cover the entire Clew Bay area, from Achill Island to Louisburgh.
During the summer season, guided walks of the historic planned town of Westport are conducted twice weekly by a qualified experienced guide.
These walks take place on Tuesday and Thursday, July and August, at 8pm starting at The Clock, one of the town’s best-known landmarks.
Mayo North Heritage Centre & Enniscoe Gardens
Mayo North Heritage Centre & Enniscoe Gardens are enclosed by woodland on the shores of Lough Conn in County Mayo.
The Mayo North Heritage Centre is the genealogy centre for people of North Mayo looking to research their family history. This Centre is a founder member of the Irish Family History Foundation and is part of the national network of family history research centres.
There is a museum with household and agricultural machinery.
The reception area has a shop with many exclusive items: antique and contemporary collectables, linen, lace and many other attractive and unusual items are to be found there. The shop also features the work of local potter, Kay Ellen.
You can visit a working blacksmith in the forge, or just sit back and enjoy a snack in the tearoom overlooking the Victorian Walled Garden.
There is also an organic vegetable garden and pleasure grounds extending to the shores of Lough Conn. The Walled Garden dates back to the 18th century, but the present focus of the garden is on the late Victorian period with plants of that era and on the architectural features which have been restored under the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme. A feature of the garden is the rustic stone archway planted with hardy ferns and the long rockery.
Achill Secret Garden
While on Achill Island, why not visit Achill Secret Garden.
Located right by the Atlantic coast and hidden in a small bay on Achill Island, you will find the most westerly public garden in Ireland by the sea.
The three acres of gardens belong to Bleanaskill Lodge which was established around 1870 – there have been gardeners living in Bleanaskill Lodge in Achill since that time; and, the oldest trees, Monterey Cypresses and Cordyline, were planted back then.
There are three different flower borders: the ‘yellow’, ‘red’ and ‘blue’ and, hidden away in a secret place, you will find treeferns.
The planting of various trees and shrubs by the owners of Bleanaskill Lodge for many decades has resulted in a mixture of mature trees and colourful borders, art features and vibrant wildlife – A haven of tranquility and peace.
Entrance to the garden on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, is free, but donations will be welcome in aid of Achill Sound Nursery Home, St Finians.
Croagh Patrick, which overlooks Clew Bay in County Mayo, is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland. Its religious significance dates back to the time of the pagans, when people are thought to have gathered here to celebrate the beginning of harvest season. The mountain now takes the name of Ireland’s patron saint, who, according to Christian tradition, fasted at the peak of the mountain for 40 days in 441.
Each year, The Reek, as it is colloquially known, attracts about 1 million pilgrims, many of whom spend the last Sunday in July climbing to the summit in honour of St Patrick. At the top, there is a modern chapel where mass is celebrated and confessions are heard. Participants also have the opportunity to take in panoramic views of Clew Bay and the surrounding area.
Ballintubber Abbey and The Celtic Furrow
The King of Connacht founded County Mayo’s Ballintubber Abbey in 1216 near the site of a Patrician church and the stone where St Patrick baptised his converts.
The abbey has suffered a turbulent history through suppression and fire however, as poet Cecil Day Lewis wrote, “it refused to die,” and worship continued.
Today, Ballintubber is recognised as the country’s only royal abbey that has been in continuous use for nearly eight centuries.
Located on limestone lands near Lough Carra, south of Castlebar, Ballintubber is now part of Tóchar Phádraig. This is a 35km pilgrimage road that stretches to Croagh Patrick. It is also a parish church where mass is celebrated daily.
Christchurch is one of the oldest buildings in Castlebar, County Mayo, as its first stones were laid in 1739. From 1800 to 1828, the house of worship underwent renovations. Inside, visitors can explore the history of the town from 1590 to 1914 through numerous commemorative plaques.
The church is located on the tree-lined Mall, which today serves as the town park.
In 1460, Moyne Abbey was established in County Mayo, just 3.5km from Killala. The founder of the Observantine Franciscan monastery was likely McWilliams Bourke or a member of the Barrett family.
The impressive ruin includes a cruciform church, chapel, tower and cloisters. Visitors can also explore the sacristy, chapter house, kitchen and refectory, under which a stream flows.
The abbey was burned by Sir Richard Bingham in 1590, but it’s believed friars continued to reside there until about 1800.
In the village of Cong, County Mayo, visitors can see the ruins of a 12th-century Augustinian abbey established by Turlough O’Connor, High King of Ireland. The land had previously housed a 6th-century church associated with St Feichin.
At one time, the abbey had 3,000 inhabitants, who were excellent scholars and skilled craftsmen. It is also the location where Rory O’Connor, Ireland’s last High King, died.
Belderrig Prehistoric Farm Site
At the western limit of the Ceide Fields landscape in the village of Belderring, County Mayo, sits a fascinating prehistoric farm site. The area, which is about 40k from Ballina, features Stone Age fields, a Bronze Age round house and tillage ridges dating back to 1500 BC.
Located along the River Moy, Rosserk Abbey is a compact friary of the Third Order Franciscans, founded around 1440 by a member of the Joyce family. It is just 4km from Killala, County Mayo.
The friary has been in ruins since the Suppression of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII, around 1540, but remains well preserved. Visitors can view the finely carved west doorway, single-aisle church and unique double piscina.
Rockfleet Castle (Carraig-an-Cabhlaigh), also known as Carrickahowley Castle, stands at the mouth of a small inlet on the northern shores of Clew Bay in County Mayo. The Castle is renowned for its links with Grace O`Malley (or Granuaile), a pirate sea Queen who inhabited the castle in the latter part of the 16th Century. Grace was reputed to have command of three galleys and some 200 fighting men with which she was able to give the merchant ships to and from Galway a hard time. In fact she became so successful in this that, in March of 1574, the English sent an expedition of ships and troops to put an end to her maritime exploits. They laid siege to the castle for many days but Grace turned the tables on them and the hunters became the hunted.
Partry House dates from 1667 when it was built on the remains of Cloonlagheen Castle by Arthur Lynch as a dowager house for his mother, Lady Ellis, widow of Sir Roebuck Lynch of Castle Carra.
Evidence of the original castle was discovered during restoration work in 1995 when slit windows opening inwards were found at knee level on the first floor. Old castle walls can be seen incorporated into stable walls.
The one-time islands Moynish, Creegaun and Leamnahaye are linked to the shore by means of the Famine Walk built between the lake and a bog area. This, and the fine limestone shore edging, date from famine times when the Lynchs looked after their tenants providing food and work for them. Two old cast iron pots used to cook cornmeal stand in the garden.
The Lynchs, along with Browns of Westport House and the Moores of Moore Hall, chartered the shop, the ‘Martha Washington’ to bring corn meal from America for their tenants.
There are lakeside picnic areas available.
Westport House & Gardens – The Jewel in the Crown of the West
Are you interested in the fascinating story of Ireland’s most beautiful historic house? Interested in learning about Ireland’s Pirate Queen: Grace O’Malley? Looking for art, antiques and architecture? Want to enjoy the peaceful, natural gardens of a superb parkland setting? If so, you can’t leave the West of Ireland without visiting Westport House & Gardens.
The home of Grace O’Malley, Westport House has been open to the public for over 50 years and has welcomed over 4 million visitors. It was designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century and enjoys a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, wonderful gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Achill, Clare Island and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. It was built and is still privately owned by the Browne family who are direct descendants of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.
Opportunities to enjoy art, activity, history and culture abound – for both adults and children alike – in this beautiful historic house showcasing:
• 500 years of history of one family’s life in Westport House and their connection to Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley (or Grainne Uaile)
• Over 30 rooms open to the public with original antiques, architecture and artwork
• 60 minute guided tour where you learn all about the Browne Family who have lived here since the 16th Century as well as the original architecture, antiques and artwork in this beautiful house (NEW!)
• Child-friendly Grace O’Malley Experience – 30 minute guided tour where you’ll learn all about Westport House’s history of pirates, Grace O’Malley and the high seas finishing in the newly decorated dungeons illustrating life on one of her Galleons (NEW!)
• 4 permanent exhibitions – The Last 50 Years at Westport House (NEW!); Grace O’Malley, Pirate Queen; Howe Peter & the Abolition of Slavery and Waxwork exhibition of famous visitors to Westport
• Tea Rooms in restored original kitchens serving delicious snacks, teas and coffees
• Dungeons from Grace O’Malley’s 16th Century Castle
• Leisurely parkland walks including a Tree Trail and Looped Riverside Walk
• Lake, terraces, waterfalls & natural gardens
• Scenic photographic opportunities
• Pedestrian access from Westport Town
Be sure to get here early to enjoy everything on offer – with NEW extended opening hours – it’s a full day!
Clare Island lies off the Mayo coast at the entrance to Clew Bay. Its spectacular cliffs are home to large numbers of nesting sea birds and its hills, bogs and woodlands make it ideal for hill walking.
The largest of the Mayo offshore islands, the Island’s complex history can be read through its landscape: from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall paintings in the 14th century abbey. One can view the castle and burial place of the famous ‘pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile).
The island population is now around 130, yet everywhere there are traces of past generations, most significantly the 19th century population explosion and subsequent famine when the island’s population of 1600 was reduced by half. Old potato ridges, or ‘lazy beds’ are everywhere: the evening sun reveals them jutting out from the land like the rib cages of some dying beast.
Clare Island’s scenic beauty, pristine beaches, rare flora and gentle peak of Knockmore (461m) make it an ideal destination for walkers. Offshore, the clear waters surrounding the island are known for their exceptional dive sites.
Clare is also known for its lively night life, live music and regular summer festivals.
Achill Island – Achaill
Achill Island is home to five picture postcard Blue Flag beaches, some of Europe’s highest cliffs and large tracts of blanket bog sweeping over the island’s two peaks and down to the shore.
Achill Island, or as it is known by its Gaelic name Oilean Acaill, has a long history of human settlement with megalithic tombs and promontory forts dating back 5,000 years. There is also a 15th century fortified tower house, Kildamhnait Castle, the 19th century Acaill Mission and the poignant deserted villages at Slievemore and Ailt.
This windswept Island, the largest of Ireland’s offshore Islands, has attracted people to its shores for generations and now you can drive across to it.
Once on the Island there is spectacular Atlantic Drive which takes one along a 40km drive that includes the best of the Islands scenery.
Walking and cycling along the quiet lanes and trails is also a wonderful way to discover the island’s interior. The Great Western Greenway is a new 42km long track for cyclists, walkers and runners which follows the route of the former Achill to Westport railway line. This is a great way to visit the Island wheeling your way down from Westport to Achill arriving at the Achill Sound. In 2011 the Great Western Greenway was awarded the EDEN European Destination of Excellence Award for Sustainable Tourism.
Throughout the year a variety of festivals take place on Achill Island celebrating everything from traditional music, arts and culture to walking, sailing and seafood. For the active you can fish, surf, dive and kayak here. There are also a number of well renowned craft shops and art galleries to explore.
Kiltimagh Pet Farm
Kiltimagh Pet Farm is located on 12 acres, and has over 30 different species of animals and birds, which include all the usual farm animals such as chickens, ducks, sheep, as well as several breeds of fancy exotic birds.
There are also llamas, rhea, pygmy goats, cotton-eared marmoset monkies, wallabies and various reptiles, African-spurred tortoises which are the third largest breed of tortoise in the world.
There is also the opportunity for children to have pony rides and play in the play area. There are often baby animals such as rabbitts, chicks and ducks that the children can cuddle if they wish.
Graune Pet Farm & Play Centre
Graune Pet Farm & Play Centre is a specially-designed pet farm and opened its gates recently. It was designed and developed by Michael & Chris Brady for children and adults to come and spend a full day to enjoy fun and activities.
Much more than your standard pet farm, Graune can cater for up to 200 people per day, whether you want to make a group visit, private party or just come along with your children for the day.
What distinguishes this centre from the usual pet farm is that, apart from the vast range of animals to be seen on the farm tour, there are many more ways of fulfilling your day at Graune Pet Farm & Play Centre. We have outdoor playgrounds with numerous swings, see-saws and slides. We also have a football pitch, and footballs are supplied.
With our indoor pens you and your children can see the animals with ease without the worry of the weather outside. One of the most popular attractions, apart from the animals, are our indoor bouncy castles and pool table area. With perfect viewing from both of our function rooms, you can keep an eye on your children while you yourself is relaxing.
Our indoor sand pit is a great way for your children to have fun, with a wide variety of toys and activities, it will keep them entertained.
We can cater for many functions. Upstairs, we have one large room with toilet facilities which overlooks the indoor bouncy castles, and one smaller room which overlooks our outdoor playground. The third room overlooks the cottage, football pitch and both sides of the playground.
Downstairs is the main restaurant, and there is yet another room which can be made totally private.
Our Party Package includes the following:
* Full use of facilities from 12.00 noon-18.00
* Children’s food menu which consists of fast food or a healthier option
* Party bag for all children attending the party
* Graune Pet Farm voucher for the birthday girl or boy
Mayo Memorial Peace Park
The Mayo Memorial Peace Park, Garden of Remembrance, was officially opened by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in October 2008.
The Park commemorates the men and women of Mayo killed in the world wars of the last century.
Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre
The Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre houses an interpretative exhibition of the landscape, habitats and species found in the National Park, as well as information on the surrounding area.
Ballycroy, one of Ireland’s six national parks, is dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range and the Owenduff bog. This is one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in Ireland and Western Europe.
There is a short nature trail with a viewing point which offers great scenic views of Achill Island to the west, and the Nephin Beg mountain range to the east.
Greenland white-fronted geese, golden plover, red grouse and otters are just some of the important fauna found within the Park.
Ireland’s School Of Falconry
Ireland’s School of Falconry provides one-hour private hawk walks.
Within minutes of arriving, visitors set off around the beautiful gardens and woodlands to fly a hawk and to experience that unforgettable moment when a hawk swoops down from a tree to land on the would-be falconer’s gloved fist.
Each hawk walk is a private experience with a falconer and hawk, or team of hawks, per visitor while spectators can accompany participants free of charge.
All ages and abilities can be catered for with reduced rates for families and groups. Pre-booking is essential for this experience of a lifetime and the falconry school is open year-round except Christmas Day.
The Barony Of Erris Birdwatching
The beaches and coastline are home to a variety of bird species throughout the year, making the Barony of Erris especially interesting for birdwatchers. Cormorants and a wide variety of Gulls are some of the more common birds to be seen.
Cong Wood, situated beside Cong Abbey, has oak, chestnut, cypress, redwood and red cedar trees. It is also the home of many wild animals including the pine marten. The area has many underground streams. Folklore has it that Saint Jarlath slept here on several occasions.