The A to Z of Mayo

Posted in Connect on August 7, 2019.

In the run up to this years Mayo Day event, we looked for help in compiling a list of some of the many things that makes our County so great. With the help of many hundreds of entries across our social media platforms, we have narrowed down the most popular entries and we are delighted to present to you, the The A to Z of Mayo.

A is for Achill. With its scenic views and wonderful people, Achill was the clear-cut winner here. From the Deserted Village and Carrickkildavnet Castle to the majestic Keem Beach and the sea cliffs of Croaghaun, Achill remains as beautiful for locals as it does to the tourists who visit year-round. Even Bono, of the legendary U2, was mesmerized by its beauty as he visited on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

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B is for our Beaches. From the aforementioned Keem to Carrowmore in Louisburgh, Mayo is spoiled for choice with its top-class beaches, with 10 Blue Flag beaches and 7 Green Coast beaches as of 2018. With so many beaches to choose from along its rugged Atlantic coast, it’s a delight for all from surfers to sun loungers (when the weather plays nice) and everyone in between.

C is for Clare Island. “Will you meet me on Clare Island, summer stars are in the sky, get the ferry out from Roonagh and wave all our cares goodbye” sang the Saw Doctors many moons ago. (Indeed, not their only reference to the island). Guarding the entrance to Clew Bay and famous for being the home of the pirate queen Gráinne O’Malley, Clare Island’s dramatic scenery, rich history and friendly locals provide an unmatched experience for visitors to the island.

D is for Dun Briste. The stunning 45-metre-tall sea stack eighty metres off Downpatrick Head was a popular choice. There are several tales told in local folklore as to how it became separated from the mainland but it is generally agreed that the ‘Broken Fort’ has stood tall in the ocean since 1393 when an arch leading to the rock collapsed in rough sea conditions. It is also known as a safe haven for a vast array of bird species at nesting time and is popular with bird watchers.

E is for Erris. The Barony of Erris covers a large part of north-west Mayo known for its balance of nature, wilderness, beauty, activities and accessibility. From walking trails to water sports, it’s easy to see why so many people chose Erris on the A to Z list.  Some of the highlights include Ballycroy National Park, The Mullet Peninsula and the Céide Fields.

F is for Foxford. Situated on the wonderful River Moy, Foxford is rich in heritage and history. The birthplace of Admiral William Brown, the founder of the Argentinian Navy, Foxford is famous for its Woollen Mills and salmon fishing as well as its Loop Walks and Heritage Trail. A perfect place to spend a day or many!

G is for Great Western Greenway. The award winning 42km Great Western Greenway runs from Westport to Mulranny and on to Achill and is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. It follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937. With so many amazing sights along the route, it is one of the great tourist attractions of the county.

H is for Hiking. With large areas of unspoilt, clean countryside and varying landscapes, Mayo is a prime location for hiking. From forest trails to coastal walks and several great hills and mountains that suit beginners to experts, you will not be found wanting in Mayo. Some highlights include Neiphin, Croagh Patrick, Slievemore and Croaghaun.

I is for Inishkea Islands. The Inishkea Islands are situated off the coast of the Mullet peninsula. Having once supported thriving fishing and farming communities, these islands are now uninhabited except for seabirds and grey seals that can be seen in its many stunning coves and inlets. Inishkea South, with its deserted village, can be visited during summer months on organised boat trips.

J is for James Horan. A very popular name in Mayo circles, we celebrate two James Horan’s on this list. Monsignor James Horan was parish priest of Knock who oversaw the building of a new church for Knock Shrine and led the successful campaign to bring an airport to Knock, which opened in 1986 and continues to thrive and grow today. Our second James Horan has led the Mayo Gaelic football team to 4 Connacht titles as manager (in addition to 3 won as a player and 2 individual All Stars) and brought us so close to the coveted All Ireland on multiple occasions as both a player and manager. Having recently led the team to their first Division 1 titles in 18 years (having won it as a player in 2001), the future is looking bright!

K is for Killala. The picturesque seaside village is only a short drive from Ballina. With the round tower dominating its skyline and the beautiful Moyne Abbey among some of its major landmarks, Killala is rich in archaeological remains. Rich too it is in history, having been the site of the first battle of General Humbert’s French forces after they had landed at the nearby Kilcummin Harbour. Any trip to North Mayo is not complete without a stop here.

L is for Love Lannagh. Organised by voluntary group Love Castlebar,Love Lannagh is an annual free family fun day taking place on the shores of Lough Lannagh in Castlebar. The festival is jam packed of serious fun and combines fun games on water and land along with great food, live music & entertainment. The festival has continued to grow and brings in ever increasing crowds year on year.

M is for Moy. The River Moy snakes its way from east Mayo, passing near Swinford and heads north through Foxford and Ballina before entering the Atlantic Ocean at Killala Bay. Famed for its salmon fishing, anglers young and old take to the river for fishing season. The great Jack Charlton, an avid angler, was often spotted on its banks when he visited his holiday home in Ballina.

N is for Nephin. The highest standalone mountain in Ireland and second highest peak in Connacht, the translation of the the Irish Néifinn is translated as ‘Heavenly’. It dominates the landscape for miles around and has been climbed and revered for generations. There are different methods of climbing (some harder than others, so they say) but the views on top make any trek up this mountain well worth the effort.

O is for Owenduff River. Another scenic river to our list, the Owenduff River has been described as one of Ireland’s most attractive and prolific rivers for salmon and trout. The river is predominantly privately owned but limited numbers of day tickets are available for anglers wishing to cast off during fly fishing season.

P is for Pride. The history of Mayo, like the history of Ireland itself, is a story of struggle, of strife, of victories and defeats. Throughout it all, it is the story of how people sought to survive and turn often desperate challenges into opportunities. The pride in our people and our place is hard to put into words. Be it those at home or the millions with Mayo roots worldwide, we are proud of our county and are happy to show our pride on Mayo Day, the day dedicated to the celebration of the culture, vibrant communities, and unquenchable spirit of County Mayo.

Q is for (The) Quiet Man. The Oscar winning film starring the legendary John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was set in a fictional “Inisfree” but was shot in and around the beautiful village of Cong. The village has become a busy tourist attraction ever since and boasts its own Quiet Man Fan Club. An interesting note is that the pub you see in the film was in reality a small, local shop. It did not gain a licence to operate as a pub until 2008, more than fifty years later!

R is for Races. Mayo is famous for two different type of races. There are the historical ‘Races at Castlebar’ which took place in 1798 and saw a combined force of 2,000 French troops and Irish patriots defeat a force of 6,000 Protestant militia on the then outskirts of Castlebar. More recently there are the Ballinrobe Races, taking place up to nine times a year at Mayo’s only racecourse. Race meetings have taken place at the South Mayo track for 98 years and it was named ‘Racecourse of the Year’ as recently as 2012.

S is for Siamsa Sraide. Síamsa Sráide means “Fun on the Street” and Síamsa Sráide is also the name of Swinford’s own long running Summer street festival, now in its 35th year. Síamsa Sráide was the original street festival in the West of Ireland. The festival is always held over the August Bank Holiday and finishes on the traditional Old Harvest Fair Day of the first Wednesday of August. The activities throughout the festival promote history, heritage, arts and crafts, music, youth, gaeilge, sport, tourism and enterprise. It’s success down through the years has been recognised by numerous awarding bodies including National Pride of Place, Mayo Diaspora Award and the Mayo Association of Dublin Meitheal Award.

T is for Towers. Mayo is home to five majestic round towers at Aughagower, Balla, Killala, Meelick and Turlough. These enigmatic monuments were built between the 9th and 12th centuries and all were associated with ecclesiastical sites. There is some speculation that, because the doorways are set several feet above ground level, the towers were intended as places of refuge in times of trouble. The towers now stand as impressive and imposing monuments in the landscape, occasionally lit up at times of celebration to remind of Mayo’s heritage.

U is for Urlaur Lough & Abbey. Urlaur Abbey, which was founded by the Dominican Order in 1430, is one of Ireland’s hidden gems. It’s scenic location on the shores of Urlaur Lake makes the remarkably well-preserved abbey a great place to visit. Although the abbey now lies in ruins, tourists and locals come together to celebrate an annual Pattern Mass on the 4th of August.

V is for Views. Ireland is a truly stunning country, and County Mayo is without a doubt one of the most beautiful spots of them all. Featuring breathtaking views from mountains, beaches and nature walks throughout the county. No matter where you go in Mayo there is a beautiful view. Be it of Croagh Patrick from Old Head Beach, Nephin on a clear day from Ballina, Keem Beach as you wind down the hillsides of Achill, the River Moy at any of it’s points from Swinford to Killala Bay and most of the county itself from the very top of Croagh Patrick. Photographers love to visit Mayo and find the best views.

W is for Westport. Located in the south-east corner of Clew Bay, under the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Westport (Cathair na Mart) is perhaps one of the most scenic towns in Ireland. In fact, it is the three-time winner of the Irish Tidy Towns Competition and was also the winner of the 2012 Best Place to Live in Ireland competition run by The Irish Times. Westport is home to countless high-quality restaurants and bars, and has a vibrant nightlife scene. There are also many family-based activities in the area, including sailing, hiking and the town’s very own heritage centre and theme park – Westport House; making Westport the ideal location for family holidays.

Y is for Yew Tree. County Mayo was established over four centuries ago in 1570, but its name can be traced back a further nine centuries to the year 664, when St. Colmán founded a monastery on ‘The Plain of the Yew Trees,’ which in Irish is Maigh Eo. The monastery was located in what is now known as the village of Mayo Abbey. The yew tree remains an important symbol of the county, and the Mayo crest consists of nine yew trees, a Patriarchal Cross, three Passion Crosses and a ship between waves. The nine yew trees represent the nine historical baronies of the county – four in the north: Erris, Burishoole, Gallon and Tyrawley; and five in the south: Claremorris, Costello, Murrisk, Kilmaine and Carra.

Z is for Zzzzz. With such an array of attractions all around the county to keep the many visitors, and indeed locals, busy; you will need a good place to lay your head and get some rest at the end of the day. There is no shortage of amazing accommodation to be found in Mayo. From five-star luxury castles to quirky campsites and chic urban resorts to old-fashioned b&b’s, accommodation to suit all tastes can be found to let you unwind after a day of sightseeing and activity.

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