Daily Archives: December 19, 2010

A Tour of Ireland ~ Episode 15

Mayo

Ah sure why don’t we start this week with a miracle….

Knock.  On the 21st of August, 1879, Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of Knock Parish Church  This Apparition was witnessed by fifteen people, young and old.  I was at Knock many times in my young life, on days of pilgrimage and of none. Looking at several websites for links, I have to say that I was not impressed with the modern version which I feel is more akin to Disneyworld or the land of movies than religious observance.  They even have a miracle airport now at Knock.

In Cong you will find the splendour of the renowned Ashford Castle.  The Castle has been around for 700 years and appreciated by some of the worlds most famous celebrities and host to Presidents and Kings, it is synonymous with graceful luxury from the dramatic approach on the shoreline of Lough Corrib to its excellent grounds.

I am not really into advertising, but Ballinrobe located in the heart of the lake district of South Mayo, on the banks of the river Robe, is a thriving market town with a unique way of publicising their town and 2011 calendar.  It deserves to sell!

Castlebar is a busy bustling Market Town and is the administrative seat for County Mayo. It was originally a garrison town and derives its name from a settlement around the de Barra Castle in the 11th century. A town steeped in history with one of the oldest buildings being Christchurch whose foundation stones were laid in 1739. Since then it has featured in the battles of 1798 and has been the birthplace of many historical people including:

  • Charles J. Haughey – former Taoiseach of Ireland
  • Louis Brennen – inventor of the mono-rail torpedo
  • Margaret Burke Sheridan – world famous soprano
  • It is also the home place of Lord Lucan and of former EU Commissioner Padraic Flynn

Local events include the world famous International Four Days Walks and the Guinness Castlebar Blues Festival.

Westport is designated as a heritage town, its proximity to Achill, Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick, and numerous hotels and guest houses, make it a popular base for holidaymakers to tour the region.  In 1842, William Makepeace Thackeray, the famed English travel writer, visited Westport and wrote of the town:

The most beautiful view I ever saw in the World.. It forms an event in one’s life to have seen that place so beautiful that is it, and so unlike other beauties that I know of. Were such beauties lying on English shores it would be a World’s wonder perhaps, if it were on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it by hundreds, why not come and see it in Ireland!

Croagh Patrick near the little town of Murrisk, 9.5km west of Westport on the Louisburgh Road, is one of Mayo’s most famous landmarks.  It rises to 765m above the shores of Clew Bay with views of the entire Western coastline..  It is considered to be Ireland’s Holy Mountain, on which St Patrick is said to have spent the 40 days of Lent in 441 – a few years before I was born so I cannot confirm the it! 😉  It is also the place – according to legend, that he lured all the snakes in Ireland to the summit, then rang his bell as a signal for all to throw themselves over a precipice.  The climb takes about an hour by way of a path from Murrisk.  Throughout the year over 60,000 people make the ascent, starting at Murrisk Abbey. The traditional pilgrimage takes place each year on the last Sunday of July with Mass in the summit of the mountain.

Several festivals are held in and around Westport each year.

  1. The Sea Angling Festival is held annually in the third or fourth week in June. This is internationally acclaimed and in existence for over 40 years, attracting sea anglers from all over the world.
  2. The Westport Arts Festival of arts, music and literature, is held in the first week of October.
  3. The Westport Seafood Festival is held on the October Bank Holiday weekend.

Newport nestles on the shore of Clew Bay which is famous for its 365 Islands. The  Brown Oak River flows through its centre and is a pleasant seaside resort and part of an attractive and unspoiled coastline.

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, and is situated off the west coast near Mulranny. It has a population of about 3,000.  It is attached to the mainland by Michael Davitt Bridge, between the villages of Gob an Choire (Achill Sound) and Poll Raithní (Polranny).  It is named for Michael Davitt, 19th Century Irish social campaigner, Fenian, and founder of the National Land League, who officially opened it in 1887.  It was replaced in 1949 and more recently a new road bridge was opened in 2008.  I have not visited Achill since the late 1960s, it was a long weekend and on the last day I saw the scenery for the first time.  Until that point I could not see the end of my nose for the mist!  I am talking weather here and not the stuff in a bottle! 😉

Ballina, home of the famous River Moy, is Mayo’s largest town. There is a rich variety of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in the town. Among Ballina’s key visitor attractions are the ruins of Moyne Abbey, and Rosserk Friary dating back to the 15th century and the impressive St Muredach’s Cathedral stands imposingly on the banks of the River Moy.
Ballina is, of course, the home of the past President of Ireland, Mrs Mary Robinson, and the favourite fishing retreat of the Republic of Ireland’s ex Soccer Manager, Jack Charlton.