Ireland Travel Guide: 11 Fantastic Things To Do In Beautiful County Mayo

After a stormy summers day when the clouds hung heavy in the sky, and fat raindrops began to fall, the sun was finally glistening, and the horizon could be seen again, offering outstanding views over a Clew Bay – far surpassing anything a tour bus-bound visitor would ever see.

County Mayo holds a special place in my heart and each time we visit, she generously reveals more hidden treasures. This is where my affection for mountains blossomed thanks to Croagh Patrick, and this is where our enduring love story with Ireland began.

By now we have visited Mayo, the third-largest county in Ireland,  countless times and I can safely say – you don’t need to travel overseas to see amazing places, they can be found right here, along with the rugged Wild Atlantic Coast.  The scenic views in Mayo go on for miles and every twist and turn on the single-track country road leads to more raw beauty.

Last year, we spent 5 full days exploring Achill Island and  Mullet peninsula and absolutely loved every minute of it. The time we devoted to driving on far, and endless coastal roads through this part of the country were distinctive from all the other road trips because it thought us to appreciate what we have right on our doorstep.

And it was on this particular trip, captivated by the surrounding ocean and towering cliffs, we fell in love with the people, subtle colours and cold water surfing.

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Carrownisky beach near Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland.
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Wild and wonderful County Mayo coastline.

 

Before we set off from Dublin, we spent hours carefully examining maps, planning the route and various hikes along the coast.

Instead of visiting easy to get to places around Westport – a very charming town that’s alone worth at least a day from your itinerary –  we craved to drive down the small coastal roads and wanted to see rural villages with unpronounceable names.

We created the list – a very long list – of the best things we wanted to see and do, packed our schedule as tight as we could and said yes to everything.

We started and ended our adventure in Westport, drove more than 500 km + 252 km back to Dublin,  stumbled upon two beautiful lighthouses, hiked Croaghaun sea cliffs and Croagh Patrick mountain, explored and camped on Irelands largest island, had a chance to see Downpatrick Head, visited Ceide Fields and enjoyed traditional Irish music in a local pub.

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The Céide Fields multi-award-winning Visitors Centre in North of Mayo is a great stopover to see the oldest field systems in the world.

 

Ireland Travel Guide: 11 Fantastic Things To Do In Beautiful County Mayo 

Are you planning to put on your walking boots or dust of your bike and indulge in an active countryside break where you can connect to nature? In this blog post, we are sharing a few places to visit if you wish to explore County Mayo.

What is going to make this trip even more exciting – when it comes to properly exploring beautiful County Mayo, you have to leave the comfortable cocoon of your car behind and to reach all the mentioned spots in a post below you have to uncover the ground on foot, in a process becoming a more confident and more fearless traveller.

If you are considering a visit to wild and wonderful County Mayo – and you should – here is our pick for the top 10 places you have to see!

 

#1. Go for a stroll on Bertra beach

There are so many beautiful beaches in Mayo that it could be challenging to narrow it down to top 5, let alone down to one. Some beaches are literally situated in the middle of nowhere, there are blue flag beaches and the ones with a fantastic view of Croagh Patrick.

We picked Bertra beach located 12 km from Westport which is near Murrisk Village as the first stop on our whirlwind trip around Mayo. This beach is popular with bird watchers, kite surfers and there’s a lifeguard on duty during the summer month.

Sun was trying to poke through the white fluffy clouds as we slowly walked along the sandy outcrop and enjoyed incredible views of Clare island to the west and Westport to the east.

If visiting beautiful places in Ireland has taught me anything, it’s to be appreciative of how incredible yet vulnerable the world around us is.

So, why not take up #2minutebeachclean each time you visit one of the Irelands beautifully unspoiled beaches? Created by Martin Dorey, #2MinuteBeachClean is a citizen initiative sponsored by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

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Unspoiled and intensely beautiful County Mayo beaches.

 

#2. Explore Achill Island and see the Keem Bay

As we stood in the presence of turquoise blue waters surrounded by Croaghaun Mountain on one and Benmore cliffs on the other side, we realised how fortunate we are to call Ireland our home.

Keem Strand is located on the largest island off the coast of Ireland-Achill Island, easily accessible via a small bridge, and to get to the Keem Bay, you have to drive over a scenic clifftop road while watching out for wandering sheep.

The beach itself radiates pure tranquillity and on a sunny summer day can effortlessly rival those of the Mediterranean. To really appreciate the Keem bay and surrounding area, you can go on a hike to explore nearby Croaghaun cliffs (688 metres or 2,257 ft) where Irelands highest corrie lake Bunnafreva Lough West can be found, because it doesn’t really get any wilder and serene than this.

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One of the most beautiful blue flag beaches on Ireland’s West Coast.

 

#3. Admire Blacksod Lighthouse

Situated on the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula and build in 1864, Blacksod Lighthouse isn’t open to the public, but it is still operating today. The lighthouse played a vital role during WW2 and if you plan on visiting this isolated place expect fantastic views – weather permitting –  of Achill Islands hills and beyond.

The road from Bellmullet, with the road signs displayed in Irish Gaelic, to a sturdy looking lighthouse makes for a lovely drive if you are in the area – there’s a little fishing harbour with lobster pots stored on one side of it and if you are interested, guided day trips, weather permitting,  can be arranged to the nearby Iniskea Islands.

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Sitting pretty on the coast and guiding ships at night.

 

#4. Hike along Carrowteige cliffs

Carrowteige is a very small  Irish speaking village situated in the remote north-west corner of County Mayo. One of the main reason people visit this place is to go on a Carrowteige Loop Walk.

The trail brings hikers all the way to natural sea stacks towering out of the North Atlantic called The Stags of Broadhaven. It is said they are somewhat between  650 and 950 million years old.

This is one of the finest stretches of the coast in Mayo with wild and unfenced cliffs. In total there are three varieties of walks to choose from, and all of them go through boggy terrain and open grassland. Good walking boots with ankle support, a rain jacket as well as water and snacks is a must.

  • The blue arrow is the Children of Lir loop walk, one we would highly recommend – 10km in length, very well signposted, takes around 2.5 hours to complete and starts from the car park at Carrowteiges summer school beside Garvin’s store.
  • The red arrow is for the 13 kilometres long Black Ditch Loop that is yet another stunning and rewarding wild coastal walk across the windswept landscape. Allow three hours to complete the walk.
  • The green arrow walk is the shortest of the three walks yet offer equally stunning views.
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Dramatic cliffs and natural beauty around every corner.

 

#5. Stand on the summit of Irelands Holy and Sacred mountain, Croagh Patrick

Every year on the last Sunday in July tens of thousands of people gear up at the foothill of Croagh Patrick mountain(762m above sea level). The Reek Sunday draws in around 25, 000 hikers and pilgrims. Some climb it to be redeemed from the sins, some do it to be part of the tradition and ritual.

Legend has it that after Saint Patrick’s fasting for forty days, he threw a silver bell down the side of the Croagh Patrick mountain knocking the she-demon Corra from the sky into a lake, sited at the base of the mountain on the southern side known locally as Lough na Corra, ultimately banishing all the snakes from Ireland.

By now we have stood on the iconic summit, providing fantastic views of the nearby Clew Bay, five times. The first part of the walk is relatively straightforward: well-trodden rocky path going uphill. The second part of the trail is much harder as the slope is steep, exposed to wind and covered in the loose shingle.

If you are planning on hiking the mountain, don’t forget to pack enough water and food into your backpack as well as a good rain jacket and hiking boots.

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This picture was taken back in 2003 on our very first trip to Westport.

 

#6. Explore Erris Head

We took advantage of the sunny weather and went for another invigorating walk over a bogland towards masculine-looking cliffs. The signposted trail – tucked away off the beaten track – started at the car park, and we had to climb over a stile to continue on a wet, grassy path.

Erris Head had this other worthy feel to it with subtle colours and incredible sea arches, and by far was one of the wildest and windiest places we’ve visited.

The length of Erris Head loop walk is 5 km, and it took us just about two hours to complete, and due to the nature of walk that follows a trail through working farmland where livestock is present, no dogs are allowed on this walk.

The trailhead can be easily reached from Bellmullet, just head north on R313 toward Sráid An Phiarsaigh and onto L1201 and follow the signs fro Erris Head.

To manage the mucky trail, wear quality hiking boots with a good grip and wear appropriate clothing.

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Fantastic scenery along County Mayo rugged coast.

 

#7. Be stunned by Downpatrick Head 

Nothing really prepared us for when Downpatrick Head came into sight when we cautiously approached cliff edge. Just a few miles from Ballycastle and Ceide Fields Neolithic Site huge and lone sea stack stands firm and steady in the Atlantic ocean.

It’s a long walk out to the site from the spacious car park, but it’s free, wild and extremely dramatic. Make sure to walk around to see the rock column from different angles.

Called Dún Briste, meaning broken fort, is 45 metres high sea stack and is rather a spectacular site to visit at any time of the year, be it on a crisp and clear autumn day,  during the spring storms or on a warm summer evening.

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Downpatrick Head is 45 metres high flat-topped sea stack.

 

#8. Visit Ballyglass Lighthouse

Seasons come and go, but some things stay the same, like my fascination for lighthouses. I was delighted to find out there is another one in the area. Ballyglass Lighthouse (often referred to as Broadhaven Lighthouse) is situated on the northeastern tip of the Mullet Peninsula.

We hopped out of the car and found the lighthouse hiding behind red gates with a ‘Caution, No Entry’ sign in front of it.

However, there’s a little path that circles along the walls surrounding the lighthouse, but watch your step as its quite close to the cliff edge in some places.

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Remote yet beautiful lighthouse overlooking Broadhaven Bay.

 

#9. Cycle the Great Western Greenway

The longest off-road cycling trail in Ireland, Great Western Greenway is 42 km in length connecting Westport town and Achill Island. Our personal favourite stretch of the trail is from Mulranny to Achill Sound- it’s a very scenic, easy and only 13 km bike ride, that ends on one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland.

Bike rentals are available in towns along the route Westport, Newport, Mullranny and Newport including which means you don’t have to cycle the whole way and can just pick one section of the Great Western Greenway.

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Westport town is a perfect place to start or end your cycling adventure in Ireland.

 

#10. Visit Westport Town

A lovely heritage town situated right on the wild Atlantic way where you can wander little alleyways, peek behind the colourful facades of pubs that hide a sprawling world of late-night Irish music sessions and dimly lit interiors, and walk across the Doris brother bridge that’s named after two brothers who founded the Mayo news in 1892.

Biggest attractions in Westport is Westport House and Grounds, Clew Bay Heritage Centre and many shops specialising in the best Irish Craft and Design.

While in town, make sure you sample one of Mescan Breweries creations; be it stout, blond beer or red tripel.

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Westport is a town situated at the south-east corner of Clew Bay in County Mayo.

 

#11. Go surfing

Learning to surf is a great and fun way to spend a morning or even half of the day. All you need to do is to bring a towel, swimsuit and your sense of adventure – the rest is provided by the surf school.

This includes suitable board and wetsuit – yes, in Ireland, they are a must – a qualified surf instructor and whenever needed- transportation to the beach. Youll be able to have fun and also learn about standing up, paddling, wave timing and placement, wave selection

You don’t have to be in an excellent physical condition to take up a surfing lesson but learning to surf in the long term, you have to commit to a healthy lifestyle and plenty of exercises to strengthen your physical form.

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Surfing is a fun activity for the whole family.

 

How to get to County Mayo

County Mayo is located at Irelands West Coast and driving distance from Dublin to the largest city Westport is just over 3 hours (Dublin-Mullingar-Castlebar-Westport, via N5).

In Ireland, driving is on the left side, you must always wear a seatbelt and watch your speed limit.  It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the road signs in Ireland.

Travelling around County Mayo – or any other place in Ireland for that matter – with a car is the best way as it gives you an option to make last-minute changes to your itinerary and rewards you with the freedom to travel where you want.

  • From Dublin / Driving distance from Dublin to Westport is 253km. Take Chapelizod Bypass/R148 to N4 in South Dublin and then just follow M4N4 and N5 to Distillery Rd in Westport. 
  • By public transport / There are no organised tours from Dublin to Mayo, so, if you don’t have a car, public transport is your other option. Trains depart daily for Westport from Dublin Heuston station, and Bus Éireann operates from Dublin city
  • To Achill Island / Travelling to Achill Island by public transport will take some time, effort and a little bit of planning. But fear not, Bus Éireann provide service to Achill from Westport (Bus number 440, Monday to Sunday).
  • From Sligo / County Mayo can be easily reached from Sligo with Westport town only a 100 km away. Follow the fastest route and get on N4 followed by N17 and N5.
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Life will always find a way.

 

Where to stay in Mayo

If you are looking for a place to stay on your road trip around County Mayo, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Given Westport’s popularity with holidaymakers and weekend explorers, you’ll find lots of accommodation options including hostels, riverside apartments and family-owned hotels.

Have you ever dreamed about staying the night in a lighthouse? Clare Island lighthouse offers comfy beds and stunning views. Pure Magic Lodge, situated on Achill Island, is a wonderful place to meet other travellers, have a good nights sleep and learn to kitesurf. 

Waterfall Cottage with a fully equipped kitchen, wood-burning stove and comfortable rooms is a beautiful riverside cottage located in a peaceful setting just 20 miles from Westport.

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Westport town looking pretty in her summer attire.

 

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Now, over to you!

 Did we convince you to visit County Mayo? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to County Mayo and have travel-related questions!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

32 thoughts on “Ireland Travel Guide: 11 Fantastic Things To Do In Beautiful County Mayo

    1. Thanks so much! Despite its fair share of rainy days, Ireland is a fantastic place to explore and now with the autumn season upon us, we are even more excited for the scenery to shift and change. Hope you get to visit one day! Have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much! We are devoting more time and resources to exploring our own backyard and, o my, how much is there to see and do! Two weeks ago we climber Croagh Patrick again, but his time with our 3-year old in tow and although we didn’t get to stand on the summit we were utterly delighted by the trip to this beautiful county! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day! Aiva

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  1. Thanks, as always, for some illuminating travel adventure locations, tips and pictures! I will get to Mayo County and Westport in May, but as I will be with a travel group won’t get to all you’ve noted – but maybe some! I am really not into the whole tour group thing or being part of a big group – prefer to save the costs and plan my own explorations and do all that I want to do – yet, I did give in this time. I am joining some trekking buddies to walk the Dingle Way and Beara Way and thought so as to capitalize on my time there I would go ahead and do the tour before embarking on our trek. The tour starts in Dublin on 5/15 & we’ll be 2 nights there. As I’m flying into Dublin on 5/14, guess I’ll be staying there that night, too.. Then its on to 2 nights in Kinsale, 3 nights in Dingle (so I’ll have a real head’s up when my trekking group arrives!), 2 nights in Galway, only 1 night in Westport and then off to Northern Ireland where we stay at the Resort of Portrush 2 nights and then to Belfast for 2. And of course, many historic and scenic sites along the way and within the towns. I will meet my trekking group in Kerry on 5/29 to start walking 6/1, finishing 6/18. I leave from the Dublin Airport on 6/21 so I need to get myself from Belfast to there and haven’t figured that part out yet. Sorry for all the details – boring to your other readers, no doubt. I am so excited though and knew you lived in Ireland and was happy to see this post! Hopefully you won’t judge me too negatively for invading your country at times by tour bus…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow dang – I left a really long post and because I wasn’t signed in, got thrown to the login page. So I guess it was lost. Maybe it was TMI anyway! Thanks again for all of your great ideas and pictures! I will actually be coming to your fine country in May and will be walking the Dingle Way and Beara Way with some trekking buddies from 6/1-6/18. I hate to admit that I decided to come early and book a Rick Steves tour in May to take advantage of their expertise and my going there (not my usual style AT ALL – don’t like crowds, buses and set agendas) yet I just felt this time it would work best for me to pack the most in. I will be only one day in County Mayo and will be spending 5/24 in Westport. I also finish the trek in Kerry and need to make my way back to Dublin for a flight out on 6/21 so I have a very brief open piece to fill there. Thanks again for sharing such beautiful photos and ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. O, no, I can’t believe your comment got lost, sorry to hear that!
      You must be very excited about your upcoming trip to Ireland, are you really planning to hike all 162 kilometres of The Dingle Way in addition to Beara Way? You must be one super fit hiking enthusiast – I applaud to you and all your hiking adventures, it’s been a very very long time since I’ve been on a proper trailblazing experience. We are just back from yet another road trip around County Mayo where we managed to climb halfway up the Croagh Patrick mountain with our 3-year-old in tow. On the way back to Sligo, we stopped at Westport town and were utterly blown away by how stunning this place was – baskets overflowing with flowers and the bright blue sky must have hugely contributed to that fact yet we were reminded how much beauty can be found in our own backyard. Thanks again, and have a good day. Aiva

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      1. I can’t wait to see your beautiful country!! I hope there will be loads of flower filled baskets in Westport when we are there, too! Yes, planning to cover the whole routes, though staying in BnB’s vs. any camping and apparently there are 2 times we will caravan ahead to skip some long concrete portions. We’ll walk an average of 10 miles a day, though we have a 13 milers in there, an 11 and a couple of 12.5… (I suppose I better try to convert my thinking to kilometers…) Thanks, and sorry for the double (and long) entries!

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    1. Thank you kindly! Over the years, we made a conscious decision to visit Mayo for different reasons and in different seasons. This way, we were rewarded with an array of weather conditions ranging from blooming spring flowers and incredible summer sunsets to autumn magic! We are yet to see it sprinkled with a light dusting of snow, so I guess another trip is on the cards this winter. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. The secret to good photographs, especially in Ireland, is to stay in one place for a while and wait for that perfect light to make an appearance! Discovering your roots must be very exciting process and I don’t think there’s anything better than making an effort to visit places were your ancestors roamed around! Thanks for reading and have a good day 😀

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  3. Ireland is on my bucket list. We prefer to go outside the heavy tourist spots, be with nature & enjoy the outdoors. You provided great info for that. I love lighthouses so staying in one would be perfect. Very nice article.

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    1. Can you imagine staying in a lighthouse, thats one of the things very high on my to-do list. Ireland is a fantastic place to explore, and that’s why we made a conscious decision, the one we haven’t regretted, to see more of it this year. Hope you get to see Ireland one day. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Staying in a lighthouse is definitely on my bucket list. There are a few here in the states that you can book & stay in. The Dungeoness Lighthouse in Seattle is one of them. I hope to see Ireland in a few years.

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    1. Thanks so much, hiking Croagh Patrick and visiting County Mayo was the very first trip we made in Ireland once we settled in and this is where our love for being outdoors was born. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much, what a lovely thing to say! This year, we made a promise to explore more of our own backyard and were surprised by what we found just an hours drive away from Sligo. Ireland is a beautiful place worth exploring. Hope you get to visit one day! Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amazing! Glad to hear you’re appreciating what’s right in front of you! I definitely hope I can visit too 😀 ! Have an amazing day

        Liked by 1 person

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