Coat of arms for County Mayo
Ruggedly beautiful Co. Mayo is one of the most overlooked places in Ireland, despite being the third largest of the 32 counties. Often sidestepped by visitors who head, instead, to the lumbering mountains of Connemara in Co. Galway, Mayo is the picture-perfect version of the west of Ireland, with its craggy coasts and soft bluffs. Even the people of Mayo have a soft, warm and quiet demeanour to match their landscape.
Co. Mayo is a great place for superlatives. It has the highest point in Connacht – Mweelrea at 814 metres – and Ireland's largest island, Achill Island, which is also home to the country’s highest cliffs, Croaghaun. As well, Mayo is home to Ireland's most spiritual mountain, Croagh Patrick, where St. Patrick is said to have fasted for forty days and nights, and the most extensive stone monument in the world at Ceide Fields. And if all of that isn't enough, Mayo is also home to the Knock Shrine, one of the most important Marian shrines in Catholicism, where Mary, St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph supposedly appeared in 1879.
Visiting Mayo is mostly about its vast emptiness and beautiful landscapes, which were the inspirational setting for the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man (there is a visitor's centre in Cong, a prominent filming location), as well as countless Irish plays and stories, including John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, and the Lady Gregory/WB Yeats collaboration Cathleen Ni Houlihan. It's possible that the county is so revered in literature because it was among the counties most badly affected by the Great Famine.
Still, the county has a few lively towns that are well worth a visit, including its county seat, Castlebar, as well as Ballina and Westport, the latter of which is a popular birthday and stag party destination for its quaint pubs and nightlife.
Quiet Mayo has also produced some pretty important people, including current Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland.
Dun Briste (Downpatrick Head), Ballycastle Co. Mayo - Credit Vinnie Quinn
Doolough Pass, Mayo
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Keem Beach, Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Croagh Patrick is situated five miles from Westport and is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick.
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