What to do and see in North Mayo

We took a trip along the North Mayo coastline to visit amongst others, Downpatrick Head and the Ceide Fields and were left pleasantly surprised with how stunning this part of Ireland is.

Killala village

Our first stop was Killala, a quaint seaside village. Killala was the scene of the last major engagement in the 1798 rebellion. The Irish rebels, helped by the French, held onto Killala for 32 days but on the 33rd day, after 20 minutes of fierce fighting 600 Irish troops were killed and the rebellion was effectively finished.

Within a small area of the village there’s a round tower, an old deanery, a Church of Ireland cathedral and the area has an old world feel to it.

Mayo village
Killala village in Mayo

Downpatrick Head

As I was browsing through our Wild Atlantic Way passport I noticed that Downpatrick Head was featured and after a quick google realised that it was along the route to the Ceide Fields.

A nice bit of luck especially given it was the highlight of our trip that day.

Downpatrick Head
Dun Briste, Mayo

Dun Briste is a 50 metre sea stack that sits 80 metres off Downpatrick Head.

St. Patrick founded a church at Downpatrick Head and legend has it that Dun Briste was caused by the man himself. He was so angered by a local Chieftain who wouldn’t convert to Christianity he struck the ground with his crozier causing a piece of the land to break away from the mainland.

St.Patrick also drove all the snakes out of Ireland – is there anything this guy couldn’t do?!!

A more logical explanation for Dun Briste is that it was caused by a storm in the 14th century with the inhabitants saved by ropes from the mainland.

Other points of interest here include a blowhole where rebels in the 1798 Rebellion hid out as they were being pursued by soldiers, but unfortunately a high tide swept the rebels away.

A Lookout Post used during World War II and also the large Eire 64 sign from 1942-43 which was used to inform pilots they were flying over Irish territory.

Downpatrick Head is simply stunning and gives the Cliffs of Moher a good run for its money. It’s not flooded with tourists and parking is free – take that Cliffs of Moher!!

We next drove the short but very scenic journey to Ceide Fields.

Ceide Fields

Ceide Fields is a Neolithic site and contains the most extensive field systems in the world. It’s well worth doing the tour as it really helps to explain the significance of the site.

North Mayo
Ceide Fields, Mayo

The visitor centre has a futuristic pyramid shape design which blends in well with the landscape.

Across the road from the visitor centre is a viewing point where you can view some of the spectacular Mayo coastline and cliffs and also see as far as Downpatrick Head.

Blacksod 

We also drove the Mullet peninsula and visited several of the many sandy beaches along this scenic coastline and stopped at Blacksod Harbour with it’s picturesque lighthouse which was built in 1864 of local granite blocks and has an unusual square design and a connection to world events.

In June 1944, under an agreement with Britain, Ireland although neutral during World War II, continued to send weather reports.  The local lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney sent the daily forecast which predicted stormy weather, unbeknownst to Ted, his report was used by General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill to delay the D-Day landing until the storm had passed.

Fishing boats in Blacksod Harbour
Blacksod harbour, county Mayo, Ireland
Blacksod Lighthouse
Blacksod Lighthouse in Mayo

Mayo is a large county and if you are planning a visit it’s worth staying a few days as there are lots of things to do and see, check out this blog post on west Mayo.

Background Sources:

OPW sites - http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/

Buildings of Ireland - http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/

Failte Ireland http://www.failteireland.ie/

WAW - https://www.wildatlanticway.com

Journey to the South Pole

On a recent trip to Kerry, we decided to visit the village of Annascaul.

The main reason was to visit the pub once owned and run by the famous Irish Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean and to visit his grave site.

I think I first became aware of Tom Crean, from the iconic Guinness Ad from 2002 and the newspaper reports about Tom’s life.

A few months ago, we went to the Hawks well theatre in Sligo to see the one man play about Tom Crean, written and performed by Aiden Dooley, it was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot about the life of Tom Crean, the Kerry man, who went on three expeditions to the Antarctica with Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. If you get the opportunity to go to this play, go see it.  As we had a trip planned to Kerry a few weeks later we decided to put Tom Crean’s pub on our road trip itinerary.

We saw another play related to the Antarctic voyages last year, in the Factory Performance theatre space on Lower Quay street, Sligo.  The Blue Raincoat theatre company produced an audio visual performance more than a play, four silent actors recreated the scenes and atmosphere of the Antarctic and Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, using old photographs, ship puppetry, sounds, lighting and shadows.

Tom Crean

In 1893, at the age of 16, Tom Crean from Annascaul in Kerry, enlisted in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world with the Navy and in 1901 while docked at a port in New Zealand, by chance he got the opportunity to join Captain Robert Scott’s Discovery expedition.  He later rejoined Captain Scott on the Terra Nova expedition, this is the expedition where Scott lost his life and Crean saved the life of his comrade Edgar Evans, he was awarded the Albert Medal by King George on his return.

Kerry Antarctic explorer Tom Crean
Famous photograph of Tom Crean on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Crean’s third expedition was with Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition.  The ship became trapped in ice and was crushed, the men had to escape onto the ice and drifted for 492 days before the ice melted and they had to row their small boats to Elephant island.  After reaching Elephant island, deserted except for Elephant seals, Crean was part of a small crew lead by Shackleton which volunteered to row a further 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) from Elephant Island to South Georgia, to seek aid for the stranded party.  Crean and the crew miraculously survived and managed to get help and all of the 22 men were saved.

Crean retired from the Navy in 1920 and returned to Kerry.  He married Ellen Herlihy and had three children, opening a pub that he decided to call the South Pole, in recognition of his time in the Antarctic. He sadly died in 1938 from a burst appendix, he was only 61 years old.  Crean rarely talked of his achievements, he was quite modest and gave no interviews.

This sculpture in the village, depicts Tom Crean holding the sled dog puppies in the Antarctic and was erected in 2003 across from his pub.

Statue of Tom Crean in Annascaul, county Kerry, Ireland
Sculpture of Tom Crean with his sled dog puppies

About 5 kilometres from the village, we visited Tom’s grave, its located in Ballynacourty cemetery.  Many of the graves in this cemetery,  are above ground in crypts.  People have left coins and piled small stones on his grave.

Antarctic explorer Tom Crean's grave
The grave of Tom Crean and his wife Ellen and their daughter Kate.

Crean bought the pub in Annascaul in 1927 from a bursary received from Captain Scott’s widow in gratitude.  The pub itself is a warm and rustic place and serves nice food and has lots of old photographs on the walls about Tom and the Antarctic voyages.

Endurance voyage
Photos of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance voyage hanging on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Annascaul is a quaint small Irish village, the day we visited it was lashing rain but we walked up the street for a look round and we passed another well known Irish pub by chance, as I didn’t realise it was located in Annascaul. Dan Foley’s pub was once featured on an Irish pub postcard series and also on a pubs of Ireland poster.

You can follow me on instagram for more photos from our road trips around Ireland.  www.instagram.com/melcoo

Exploring Mayo

We spent three days in Westport in county Mayo in the west of Ireland.  Westport is a lively town with a great atmosphere and lots of things to do.

Croagh patrick

On the first day we climbed Croagh Patrick mountain, which is located about 10 kilometres outside of Westport.  There are great views from the top of Clew bay. The weather can turn as we found out, heavy rain and gale force winds! so wear lots of layers, even in Summertime.

#croaghpatrick #Wesport #nature #mountain #CoMayo #Ireland #LovingIreland @insta_ireland

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The second day, in the morning, we drove out to Achill Island and drove around the island, taking in the beautiful views of the wild Atlantic coast.

 

wESTPORT

In the afternoon we strolled around Westport town, which is a heritage town. The town was built in the 1780’s in a Georgian architectural style, for the workers and tenants on the John Browne estate, the Marquis of Sligo.  The town has lots of lovely old buildings and a riverside Mall walk.

 

 

Mayo Greenway

On the third day, we hired bikes and cycled from Westport to Newport and back again on the Mayo Great Western Greenway cycle route, which was 22 kilometres in total.  From Newport, you can cycle onto Mulranny which is another 18 kilometres and from there to Achill Island which is another 13 kilometres.  The Greenway is 42 kilometres one way to Achill Island. There are several bike rental shops located in Westport, which offer handy shuttle services, they will drop you out to Achill Island, Mulranny or Newport and you can cycle back or you can depart from Westport and arrange to be collected from one of those locations.

We used regular bikes but if you haven’t cycled in many years, I recommend getting an electric bike, especially if you plan on cycling the full route, the route is mainly flat but there are some hills.

Dining out

We had dinner in JJ O’Malley’s bar & restaurant, the food was excellent here, I recommend the salmon fillet dish and also the Clock Tower restaurant.

For drinks we went to the famous Matt Molloys pub, which is owned by one of the Chieftains band.  The pub has a trad session every night. We also had drinks in MacBride’s pub, MJ. Hobans bar and The Porter house bar, which also host trad sessions.

Have you cycled the Mayo Greenway or climbed Croagh Patrick ? Let us know how you got on.

Click here to find out what to do and see in North Mayo.