Mayo Day: The county’s rich culture and heritage enjoys the spotlight

Posted in Connect on April 30, 2018.

Hot on the heels of May Day comes another cause for international celebration: Mayo Day.

Since it was established four years ago to showcase the arts, culture and spirit of one of Ireland’s best-loved counties, the annual Mayo Day event has grown in significance both at home and, thanks to an extensive diaspora, around the world.

This year’s Mayo Day, which takes place on Saturday May 5th, boasts a flagship new attraction, Made of Mayo, which takes place at Ballinrobe Racecourse, from noon to 6pm.

The multi-faceted event will include a Mayo Artists Exhibition featuring works from both home-grown artists as well as from those inspired by their time in the county.

Also at Made of Mayo is A Literary Lounge, which celebrates Mayo writing with story telling, readings and signings from writers such as Elizabeth Reapey, Terry MacDonagh and poet Ger Reidy, with a puppet show to inspire the writers of tomorrow.

Made of Mayo will also feature never-before exhibited photographs from the Liam Lyons Collection, a pizza-making workshop, make-up demos and an interactive screen-printing workshop where visitors can print safety messages on high-vis bibs to take home.

Mayo’s sporting heritage will be represented with drills and workshops from some of the county’s top-notch sportspeople such as Dave Heffernan from Connacht Rugby. Don’t miss the Made of Mayo Hobby Horse Derby, a highly competitive craze sweeping down from Scandinavia.

Check out the Craft & Design Showcase, where local craftspeople will be showing their wares, while good music and great food is the recipe for enjoyment at the Music & Food Village, featuring local gourmet providers such as Clew Bay Cookies and Killary Fjord Shellfish.

The popular Atlantic Rhythm will be taking the stage and Hit Machine Drummers and Cronin will be among the line-up.

Gaeltacht regions

Mayo’s rich Irish language heritage will also be celebrated, with Lá Mhaigh Eo featuring the county’s three Gaeltacht regions plus live music and Sean Nós dancing.

“One of the original and ongoing aims of Mayo Day is to promote Co Mayo nationally and internationally as a positive location for business and tourism and to further enhance the image of Mayo as a progressive ‘Will Do’ county and the heartbeat of the Wild Atlantic Way,” said Peter Hynes, chief executive at Mayo County Council.

Of course no excuse is needed to be a playboy, or playgirl, of the Western World any day of the year. It’s home to beautiful places such as Erris voted by Irish Times readers as “Best Place in Ireland to Go Wild”, while Westport was voted Best Place to Live in Ireland.

The county has 1500km of coastline and 10 Blue Flag beaches. It is at the centre of the Wild Atlantic Way and home to local tourism initiatives such as the Blueway, a kayak and snorkel trail.

Mayo has world-class outdoor activity providers plus great opportunities to give the grey matter a workout, with heritage sites such as Monasteries of the Moy and the ancient farmlands of the Céide Fields.

Climb Croagh Patrick or sail Clew Bay beneath it, which has an island for every day of the year. Follow in the wake of Pirate Queen Gráinne Mhaol on Clare Island, surf on Achill Island or fetch up in a pedalo on the lake at Westport House.

Tour by car and visit the shrine at Knock. Don’t miss historic Foxford Woollen Mills. It’s 127 years old and still weaving its magic – now in stunning furniture designs too. Take the tour to find out all about the unlikely warp and weft of its origins, spun by a nun and a freemason.

Owner and native Mayo man Joe Queenan’s favourite part of the county is Lahardane. The little village beside Lough Conn and home the new Nephin Whiskey distillery.

“It’s also got Titanic Park, a commemoration of the 14 people from this tiny village that died on the Titanic – the most from any community anywhere in the world,” says Quenan.

There are great accommodation options too, from a Hobbit Hut to a de luxe hotel. Stay Mount Falcon, a Victorian gothic manor house in Ballina, or in one of the woodland, lakeside and courtyard lodges available on this 100 acre estate. Enjoy its spa and leisure centre, private fishing on the River Moy, taking a hawk walk, golfing or clay shooting as if to the manner born.

Seaweed baths

Having moved down to Mayo from Kildare just under a year ago, to take up the position of sales and marketing manager at Mount Falcon Estate, Martina Hannigan is still seeing the county with the fresh eyes of one of her guests – and loving it. “I’m a golfer so it’s fantastic to be so close to the links at Enniscrone, and the beach which is great for walking and of course the seaweed baths, just a 15 minute drive away.”

And of course one of the biggest developments in Mayo has been the acquisition of the much-loved Westport House by the local Hughes family, owners of neighbouring Hotel Westport.

Visitors to the House can enjoy access to the grounds free of charge. And because the Hotel Westport stands on what was originally the front garden of Westport House, guests have unrivalled access from the hotel through the 400 acre estate down to Westport Quay – from where they can head to the beautiful Western Greenway, the car-free hiking and biking trail.

Families with children staying at the hotel can take advantage of Westport House’s Pirate Adventure Park. The hotel has an extensive seniors programme too including themed stays for things like bridge, golf and bowling, Spirit & Soul wellness breaks and its great value Extravaganza Holidays, which are packed with activities from local providers.

“We open 365, with bookings already coming in for Christmas,” says Eithne Cosgrove, director of sales and marketing at the property.

Another Mayo native, her own favourite tourist spot in the country “apart from Westport House” is Downpatrick Head, near the Ceide Fields. “It’s just stunning up there.” Just one more reason to go heavy on the Mayo.

What’s on in Mayo

  • May 5th: Mayo Day, Made of Mayo, Ballinrobe Racecourse, mega celebration of Mayo
  • May 12th: Experiences of Emigration, National Museum of Ireland’s Country Life, Castlebar
  • May 18th: Knitting and Crochet Circle, fascinating facet of our ancestors, National Museum of Ireland’s Country Life
  • May 20th: Frederic William Burton, how affection for the West inspired his early portrait miniatures, National Museum of Ireland’s Country Life
  • July 7th: Achill Half Marathon and 10km run, now in its 10th year
  • July 8th: Ballina Salmon Festival, at 54 years the longest running family festival in the West
  • July 15th: Dooagh Day, white knuckle currach racing
  • September 8th: Quest Achill, endurance event
  • October 13th-21st: Talking Walls Festival, culture through buildings, art and literature of Achill Island

The Irish Times – Sarah O’Connell. Friday April 27th 2018

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2019.