Hi everyone. I hope I find you all well. This week we continue our Virtual Tour of The Emerald Isle with a trip to County Mayo. Like neighboring County Galway it boasts a stunning coastline, awesome mountain ranges and beaches to die for. So let’s start at the beach!
1. Keel Beach
First up we’re heading straight across the bridge that separates Westport on the mainland to Ireland’s largest island, Achill. The island itself is a haven of peace and tranquility and Keel Beach is one of the finest in County Mayo. A wide sandy strand awaits with crashing Atlantic waves and incredible views of Mweelaun Cliffs and Slievemore. The acclaimed Irish artist Paul Henry made this place is his home between 1910 and 1919.
2. Rockfleet Castle
So next up we’re off to visit an Irish Castle with a colorful history! Also known as Carrickahowley Castle, Rockfleet Castle was built in the 16th century and stands at the northern side of Clew Bay near Newport. The castle is famous for its connection to Granuaile or Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s “pirate queen”. In 1556 she married the owner of Rockfleet, Risteárd an Iarainn Bourke. She moved her fleet of ships and army there where she spent her latter years until her death around 1603.
3. Aasleagh Falls
Our next port of call takes us to the Galway/Mayo border and to one of Ireland’s most picturesque waterfalls. The falls are on the Erriff River, right at the point where the river meets Killary Harbor. It provides a stunning natural border between Connemara in County Galway and County Mayo to the north.
4. Downpatrick Head
Time for an Atlantic coastal walk to invigorate and refresh with unrivaled dramatic views. Downpatrick head juts out into the ocean just north of Ballycastle Village. It takes its name from St. Patrick himself who founded a church at this site, the ruins of which remain to this day. Close to the headland there is a truly impressive sea stack, named Dún Briste (broken fort). Legend has it that the stack was created by St. Patrick when he split a piece of the headland into the sea with his staff with a chieftain still on top who refused to covert to Christianity!!
5. Westport House & Gardens
As as is the custom on the virtual tour, we come to rest and reflect in the peace and tranquility of a beautiful garden and the gardens at Westport House are hugely impressive. The house was built in the 18th century by the Browne family, direct descendants of the aforementioned Gráinne Ní Mháille. It remained the ancestral seat of the Browne family until 2017 and is now a popular tourist attraction. The 400 acre estate includes a looped walk, woodland trails, Italianate gardens and waterfalls to name but a few of its many highlights.
Many thanks for your company on the road. See you next week for a trip to my favorite County Sligo!
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!