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Mayo is an incredibly underrated county on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on the West coast. In this article I’m going to give you all the info on the best things to do in Mayo County.
From secret beaches to fairy stones and dark sky parks, Mayo has something for everyone. Here’s what you need to know.
The Best Things to do in Mayo, Ireland
1 – Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park
This is a stunning area of natural beauty in Mayo. It’s full of great hiking trails and beautiful landscapes. The park is also home to Ireland’s first international dark sky park so get ready to see some sparkling stars and even planets.
The park is around 11,000 hectares and is made up of mostly blanket bog and the Nephin Beg mountain range. It’s mostly uninhabited, so is a true wilderness park.
There is a visitor centre has an interactive exhibit and plenty of information about the park. There is also a lovely coffee shop, Ginger and Wild, with an outdoor seating area that has great views. There are hiking trails leading out from the back of the visitor centre with bug hotels to encourage the local insects.
If you decide to go for a hike through Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park make sure to do your research about your chosen trail and wear good, waterproof boots. There are no shops inside the park so bring your own water and snacks to keep you going on the trail. Oh and don’t forget your camera because it is BEAUTIFUL.
Another thing you should consider is whether your travel insurance covers hiking. Nearly all travel insurance comes in different levels which cover different activities. You might need to buy an extra add on if you’re doing a particularly challenging hike. Obviously for a short, easy hike it won’t be necessary but it’s definitely something to consider if you want to try a more intense hike.
AA Insurance offers a wide assortment of travel insurance for adventures activities, including hiking or climbing, to make sure you have complete peace of mind during your trip. Their agents will be able to assist you in finding the insurance/add on that suits your needs and budget for your trip.
2 – Clew Bay
Clew Bay is one of the most beautiful spots in Mayo. It is said that the bay has 365 islands, one for every day of the year. I don’t think that’s exactly true, but it sounds nice.
The bay is surrounded by beautiful beaches and when you’re out on the water you have great views of the Mayo coastline. You can take a boat tour of the islands from Westport and learn all about Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Ireland.
3 – Westport Walking Tour
Westport is a popular town in Mayo with an old Georgian town centre. Stone bridges reach across the Carrowbeg river and lead into the heart of the town.
Westport is a great place to base yourself when exploring Mayo. It’s small, but has everything you need.
To get to know the history behind Westport make sure to try a Westport Walking Tour. The tours are relatively short(1 to 1.5hrs) and sweet and led by a Westport local. Facts, funny stories and plenty of history are what the tour is all about. The tour costs €5.
Parking can be awkward in Westport. You can find one of the slightly hidden car parks via Google Maps or you can park on the street. To park on the street you need to buy a token from one of the local shops first.
4 – Silver Strand Beach
This secret beach is hard to find but well worth the effort. I mean, it’s not even on Google Maps so you know it’s good! The roads leading up to it are tiny and very bumpy so if you’re not used to Irish country roads it could be a bit nerve-wracking.
To get there you go through Lecanvey, continue towards Louisburg and Mweelrea. You’ll see small sign posts for Silver Strand and just follow them until the road stops.
The beach itself is all soft sands, mountain views, rolling dunes and islands. It has pretty much everything in the way of scenery. However, it has absolutely no facilities apart from a carpark and a Wild Atlantic Way sign so make sure to bring your own snacks and water.
5 – Achill Island
This is Ireland’s largest island. A bridge attaches it to the mainland so you can drive across from the coast. Over 1,000 people live on the island and there are plenty of accommodation options if you fancy joining them for a stay.
There are lots of things to see on Achill Island. Keem Bay beach was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the the world so it’s certainly worth a visit. If you’re a history fan check out the deserted village of Slievemore.
Everything about Achill is wild, rugged and absolutely beautiful. Once you arrive you might not want to leave. Especially once you try the coffee and cake at The Beehive in Keel.
6 – Terra Firma Tour
I went on a tour with Terra Firma earlier this year and it was a stellar experience. Ged was our guide and he was full of wonderful information. He took us on an incredible adventure from Newport up through Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park and beyond.
Ged had coffee and snack bars ready for us and made sure to stop the mini-van whenever we wanted to take photos. We went on a lovely relaxing hike through the national park.
Terra Firma also do Dark Sky tours in the darker months. I’m definitely planning on revisiting Mayo to experience one of these tours this winter.
You can check out their full list of tours (including yoga, hiking and more) and bespoke options on their website – HERE. I highly recommend a trip with Terra Firma if you’re in Mayo.
7 – Hike Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick is a popular pilgrimage site in Mayo. The 2,507ft mountain overlooks the town of Westport and beautiful Clew Bay. It’s actually only the third highest mountain in Mayo but it’s certainly one of the most iconic.
The Pilgrimage is undertaken on the last Sunday of July in honour of Saint Patrick. There is a small chapel on top of the mountain. In fact, there had apparently been a chapel on the peak since the 5th century. St.Patrick was supposed to have fasted up there for 40 days.
Of course you don’t have to be a pilgrim to hike Croagh Patrick. The hike takes around 3-4 hours round trip. The upper slopes are slippery and full of loose scree so make sure to wear proper boots.
CHECK OUT MY MAYO TRAVEL VLOG ON YOUTUBE
I made a video about my road trip around Mayo. I hope you enjoy my little Wild Atlantic Way vlog. I’d absolutely love if you’d give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel. Thanks a million!
8 – Ceide Fields
This is one of the most popular attractions in Mayo. There’s a lovely visitor centre full of interesting exhibits with a really nice coffee shop. On a more practical note, it’s a great spot for a bathroom break if you’re driving along the coast.
The Ceide Fields are the oldest known stone-walled field system in the world (over 6,000 years old). There are remains of houses and Neolithic tombs hidden beneath blanket bog. You can avail of guided walking tours that last just under an hour.
There’s plenty more to learn about this historic landmark. You can find all the info HERE.
9 – DownPatrick Head
In my opinion Downpatrick Head is one of the most stunning locations in Mayo. The famous Dún Briste sea stack cuts an impressive figure up from the ocean and into the sky, gulls soaring in circles around it. You can clearly see the different colours of the various rock layers in the photo above.
St.Patrick had a church here. You can still see the remains of the church, a cross and a holy well. They still give mass here on the last Sunday of July. You will also find the remains of an old World War 2 look out building.
There is a decent free car park and no entrance fee. There are picnic tables as well as a chip shack during the summer.
10 – Cycle the Great Western Greenway
The Green Western Greenway is 42 kilometres long. It begins in Westport and ends in Achill. The greenway is only for cyclists and pedestrians, so no need to worry about cars.
Running along Clew Bay, the greenway has some of the most spectacular views in Mayo. So if you want an active way to see the county, this is certainly a great option.
You’ll find all the info you need to know about the greenway HERE.
11 – Kayaking on the River Moy
This was one of my favourite things to do in Mayo. Paddle and Peddle took me out for an hour (I had limited time) on the river Moy in Ballina. They usually do 2 hour trips with prices starting from €35.
It was a nice and leisurely kayak trip with beautiful views. We saw seals along the way and you can even see kingfishers if you’re lucky.
Make sure to wear runners that you don’t mind getting wet and shorts or leggings. Paddle and Peddle provide all the other equipment that you’ll need.
You can find all the info HERE.
12 – Mount Falcon Estate
It’s worth visiting this estate for so many reasons, one of which is the Hawk Walk. You basically get to walk through the beautiful grounds of the estate with a hawk on your gloved arm. It costs €150 per couple for the Hawk Walk.
You can also spend a night or two at the stunning 4* Mount Falcon Estate. The food in the Kitchen Restaurant is delicious and they also have wonderful spa packages.
Check out more HERE.
13 – Westport House
Westport House is one of the best things to do in Mayo, especially for families. There are swan pedalos, you can take a tour of the historic house, there is a pirate adventure park and there is even a birds of prey centre.
During my time there I had a private afternoon tea in the library of the historic house. It was MAGICAL. When you ring up to book your afternoon tea make sure to request the library room, otherwise it will be in the coffee shop.
You’ll find all the info you need about Wesport House HERE.
14 – Knock
Knock is a Catholic pilgrimage site. Apparently in 1879, on August 21st, Mary, Joseph and St.John appeared to 15 people at Knock Parish Church. Now it is visited by around half a million pilgrims annually.
The shrine is open all year round but most people visit between April and October. There is also a small museum on site too with a gift shop selling local crafts.
Not for everyone, but I couldn’t leave it out!
15 – National Museum of Country Life
It might sound a bit odd, but this museum is fun, quirky and full of great info. The museum is in Turlough Park House and Gardens. There are four levels of exhibition galleries giving you lots of info about our rural ancestors.
You can explore the award-winning Victorian Gardens or pick up something for yourself in the gift shop. Treat yourself to some coffee and cake in the on-site coffee shop.
And the best part? Admission is FREE.
16 – Coasteering
Coasteering is basically an adventure activity where you put a bunch of kit on (wetsuit, lifejacket, helmet etc) and jump off cliffs into the sea, clamber up rocks and more.
Several companies in Mayo offer this activity in different parts of the county from Achill island to Clare island. It’s a great way to see parts of Mayo that aren’t always easy to reach.
If you like a bit of adventure this is your perfect thing to do in Mayo.
17 – Stay in a Castle
Of course, staying in a castle is something everyone should do when visiting Ireland. Beleek and Ashford are two of the best castles in Mayo and well worth a stay.
Ashford is a 5* hotel, 800 year old castle with an incredible spa. It is also a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World and was once home to the Guinness family. You’ll absolutely love it.
Belleek is a 3* hotel set in 1,000 acres of woodland along the river Moy. Think fourposter beds, open fires, suits of armour and gorgeous old world bar. You can always just pop in for a coffee or a cup of tea if you can’t stay for the night.
Want to check out more castles in Ireland? Check out my guide to the BEST CASTLE HOTELS IN IRELAND.
DISCLAIMER – I was hosted on this trip by Failte Ireland (Irish Tourism Board). However, all opinions are my own and this article was not paid for.
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