Free weekend? Checked! Weather? Checked! The decision is simple – we are booking the accommodation or packing our tent and going. This is how many of our small journeys around Ireland begin. The route is technically marked by the weather, and then the only thing left to do is book a night and hit the road. This is exactly what happened with our first trip to County Mayo. Second one was during the pandemic when we packed our car, tent and camping cas and just explored the county freely. We’ve decided to put all of the information together and here it is – what to see in county Mayo? Separate post about Achill Island, which is also a part of county Mayo you will find here.
Westport – What to see in county Mayo?
Westport is, in our opinion, a very nice town, and probably not only in ours, because the residents highly appreciate the quality of life they lead there. Typical Irish towns are usually a main street with characteristic buildings, a church and a few pubs. Westport and other Mayo cities have a slightly different layout, which we associate with the cities of the continent. There is no square, but the centre focuses on more than one street that goes across the city. It isn’t far from the centre to the sea, where there is a sort of promenade with lots of nice pubs. A great place for a beer on a sunny Sunday afternoon. From there you can see the characteristic conical mountain of Saint Patrick. Westport is connected to Dublin by rail, so a car-free weekend getaway is easy to arrange.
Croagh Patrick (St. Patrick’s Mountain) – What to see in county Mayo?
As we have already mentioned, Croagh Patrick rising at 764m above sea level is located near Westport and it’s characterized by a conical shape. Saint Patrick’s Mountain is considered a holy mountain by the Irish. According to legend, Saint Patrick spent 40 days on it fasting, like Moses on Mount Sinai, and during that time he was tempted by devilish forces. Archaeologists discovered that there was a stone chapel on the top, and in 1905 a modern chapel was built there, where masses are held every year on the last Sunday of July, it’s when the mountain becoming destination for masses of pilgrims.
We came up with an idea of climbing Croagh Patrick before sunrise, so we had to leave Newbridge late in the evening to arrive at the parking lot at Croagh Patrick in the early morning. Equipped with headlamps, we went up, the route is very rocky, but you don’t have to be an outstanding climber to manage – everyone will find their own pace. Shrouded in fog, with a mirror-like surface of the water, Clew Bay, dotted with hundreds of small islands before and just after sunset, is a sight that will be remembered for a long time, a sight that cannot be captured by photos at all! During a sunny day, Clew Bay can resemble the atolls of the Maldives! It took us about 3 hours to get up and down (not counting the long stops for photos).
Ballina – What to see in county Mayo?
Another small town in County Mayo that is crossed by the River Moy. Again the layout of the town same as Westport, does not resemble Irish towns. The river is most picturesque, especially in the evening it’s very romantic. In summer, you can probably lay down on the river’s shore or even jump into it, in many places we saw ladders leading to the water.
Ballycroy National Park – What to see in county Mayo?
A national park located in the Owenduff / Nephin mountain range. Its terrain mainly includes mountains and swamps. The swamp vegetation causes the park’s colours to change with the seasons. In the village of Ballycroy itself there is a modern visitor center, inside there is a cafe and a small museum. There are wooden paths built around the centre among the swamps, so you can walk without fear of falling knee-deep into one of the swamp clefts.
Downpatrick Head and Dun Briste – What to see in county Mayo?
The headland is about 5 kilometres north of the town of Ballycastle. As the name suggests, this place is also associated with legends about the saint patron of the island – Saint Patrick. As for us, it’s one of those spots on the Wild Atlantic Way, which you absolutely cannot let go of! The dramatic Atlantic landscape is the result of long-term effects of sea erosion. Several dozen meters from Downpatrick Head there is a lonely rock, Dun Briste, protruding from the water. Various birds are hiding in the rocky cliffs, we were hoping to see puffins, which as usual were nowhere to be seen, but we managed to see other penguin-like birds.
Kilala – What to see in county Mayo?
We don’t even hide our surprise with the fact that there are many really beautiful towns in Mayo! In the more touristic places in Ireland, such places are artificially adapted to the imaginations of American tourists and flooded with a mass of Irish and American flags. Mayo is different, it’s authentic and simply Irish, and nobody cares about the whims of Americans traveling to the emerald island. Kilala is situated on a hill overlooking Kilala Bay and numerous islands. Above the city there is a church tower and a round tower with the very literal name of ‘Round Tower’. In the past, the tower was a belfry and an observation point. If you are looking for an accommodation with amazing views, we expect The Old Deanery Holiday Cottages can be a hit!
Lacken Strand – What to see in county Mayo?
The Lacken Coast is between Kilala and Ballycastle. The views are stunning, and there is no shortage of beautiful, sandy, golden beaches. There are places where you will feel like on a desert, not a coast.
Conn Lake – – What to see in county Mayo?
Many things are associated with Ireland, but somehow not really anyone connects it with lakes. In Ireland, we really have many beautiful and large lakes dotted with small islands. We went to Meenlaragh Lower where Lake Conn can be seen from the bridge on both the right and left. The shores of the lake are dotted with numerous ruins of monasteries, and we are not surprised that the monks settled in such picturesque places!
Errew Abbey – What to see in county Mayo?
We went there spontaneously after seeing a sign pointing to ruins. As it turned out, getting to the ruins themselves isn’t so easy. Many of Ireland’s monuments, ruins and even lakes and forests are in private hands. It does not change the fact that there are signs for this or that monument by the roads, and when you get closer, it turns out that someone has to cross the field to see anything. It was the same this time, we got to the gate to the field, where there was a signpost to the monastery.
We had to cross a swampy field before reaching the moderately preserved ruins. On the other hand, we had a lot of fun doing it. When entering a private property, you need to make sure that there are no owner’s bans or information about bulls grazing in the field. If there is a sign with the information that you enter at your own risk, it means that the owner has no problems with any visitors walking in his meadow.
Rosserk Abbey – What to see in county Mayo?
Probably the best-preserved monastery on the shores of Lake Conn. It looks great in the pictures, especially of the surrounding hills. However, watch out for warnings, in these fields bulls really graze, and sometimes they just hide behind a hill.
Clare Island – What to see in County Mayo?
You can get to Clare Island from the small port of Roonagh Quay, the journey is not long and costs 17e per person if you pay on the spot, you can buy tickets online for 15 euros. Ferries do not run very often, so you need to spend a few hours on the island, but we guarantee that you will not be bored. When we got to the port on the island, we couldn’t believe our eyes, we got beautiful weather – the beach, boats swaying on the gentle waves, azure water and a mountainous island in the background is a landscape that reminded us of many different countries but definitely not Ireland.
At the port, there is the most human activity, two or three pubs and a bicycle rental place. For 15 euro we rented bikes for the day and set off to conquer the island. The island is not huge, it is 6.5 km long and 3 km wide, but it is hilly, so spending half a day there was enough for us to tour half of the island. Our main destination was the lighthouse in the northern part of the island, which is now a private B&B. We left our bikes at the lighthouse and decided to walk along the cliff, and the view is just insanely spectacular. At the end of June, the vegetation in Ireland has a luscious green, almost unreal colour, and combined with the steep cliffs and rough ocean, it brought Hawaii to our mind. Clare Island is not a particularly crowded or famous tourist destination in Ireland, and in our opinion it is a hidden gem that should not be missed!
Bertra Beach – What to see in County Mayo?
Bertra is a long, sandy dyke with a beach near Westport. The beach and its characteristic shape can be admired from the top of Saint Patrick, it is one of the favourite places of drone pilots – from the drone outside the beach you can also see the islands of Clew Bay. The views from the beach itself to the bay and the peaks surrounding it are not bad either. The beach itself is not that impressive, but its location definitely is!
The Lost Valley – What to see in County Mayo?
Lost Valley is a valley off the Atlantic coast, surrounded by the Mweelrea Mountains, with two beaches: Silver Strand and Uggool. It is one of the most beautiful places we have seen in Ireland, the nature in The Lost Valley is simply enchanting, it delights with peace and quiet, landscape, ocean breeze and soft sand.
Unfortunately, The Lost Valley is in the private hands of the Bourke family, who have had a farm there for over a century. While you can get to Silver Strand legally, park your car in the parking lot or pitch a tent, access to the Uggool beach from the land side is possible only by the road guarded by the farm gate and you cannot legally get there without buying a tour organized by the farmers – from our information, any attempts end up with aggressive reactions from the family. As Irish beaches are without exception in public hands, and access to them is often not possible due to the fact that they lead through private estates, Uggool Beach can be reached from Silver Strand at low tide. We have heard, however, that despite the fact that the beach is the most public place, the family still making it unpleasant for people who got there. We recommend you to visit this place, even despite all adversity, because it is really, really worth it!
Lake and Doo Valley – What to see in County Mayo?
Lake and Doo Valley is one of those places in Ireland that you don’t hear about or read much, and when you see them it’s hard to believe your own eyes. We have no idea why this is happening but on the other side we like places not overloaded with crowds. Lake Doo is a 4km long located in Doolough valley and surrounded by majestic peaks of Ben Lugmore, Barrclashcame and Ben Gorm. Along the bank of the lake there is road R335 where you can admire the lake from and beauty of the valley.
Unfortunately there is a sad and tragic part of its history connected to Great Famine in XIX century. In 1849 hundreds of hungry residents of Loisgurgh took on a journey to Delphi to ask local authorities for help. They weren’t listened or helped but simply sent back where they came from. Many died on the way from hunger and freezing temperatures. There is a dedicated monument in the valley.
Aasleagh Waterfall – What to see in County Mayo?
Aasleagh Waterfall located at the border of 2 counties, Mayo and Galway where river Erriff entering the only Irish Fiord – Killary. It’s not high spectacular one but rather wide series of cascades surrounded but beautiful vegetation and natural landscape. It is the main obstacle for fish going up the river to spawn. Because of that cascades are a legendary fishing spot for salmon and trout known for centuries. In season between June and September you can spot fish jumping out of water trying to conquer the cascades and avoid many anglers, amazing spectacle.
Where to eat and grab a drink?
The Towers- a seaside eatery in Westport with a huge garden where you can sit on a sunny day, food is served both inside and outside. They serve mainly seafood, prices for Ireland are quite decent and the food is tasty. The breadcrumbs on the ordered fish & chips crispy like a dream! Influenced by this dinner, we even made insta stories with a description of how the perfect fish & chips should be prepared!
Dillons Bar & Restaurant – a restaurant in Ballina, the style of which reminded us of the castle. Decorated mainly in wood and stone, we enter it through the charming courtyard of the tenement house. The food is really tasty and the service is very nice. The menu is rather standard Irish, so a burger, steak and Shepard’s pie!
The Broken Jug- pub in Ballina where we dropped in for drinks and was very pleasant to sit in. They have live music, but it’s not traditional Irish music, so we missed the vibe a bit.
Sailor’s Bar & Restaurant – on Claire Island there is no great selection of bars and restaurants but nothing to worry, you will eat well. In this bar we’ve had beautiful meal with probably cheapest lobster we have seen in Ireland. Everything was fresh and tasty with satisfying seafood selection. And view from the terrace is just to die for.
P.Dan’s – pub nearby The Lost Valley located in a spot with superb view. We don’t know how they feed as we only had fries and Guinness. But there was a lot of locals enjoying food and drink so good sign. Best spot for a drink to watch the sunset.