From the Killary fjord in the south to the estuary of the River Moy in the north, the coastline of County Mayo is a magnificent mix of awesome cliffs, dry-stone walled fields, blanket bog, mid-sized mountains and stupendous sandy beaches.
Rising to 814m, Mweelrea is Connacht’s highest mountain and stands guard over the southwest of the county. The wonderful views from atop this sandstone and conglomerate mountain include beautiful sandy beaches to its west and the fjord, forming part of the Mayo Galway border, to its south.
Mostly comprised of gorgeous beaches, the low-lying coastline below continues all the way north and around Clew Bay to the Corraun peninsula and Achill Island beyond. This stretch boasts two of the prettiest towns in the county, in bustling Westport and cute little Mulranny with its lovely beaches.
Along the way, catch a ferry at Roonagh (west of Louisburgh) to either Clare Island or Inisturk.
From the top of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, enjoy views of the nearly 100 islands in the bay below. Clew Bay is among Ireland’s most impressive post-glacial landscapes. Along with countless other drumlins on land, the islands here, often referred to as ‘drowned eggs’, were formed as the dying glaciers entered the open ocean to the west. These glaciers came across Scotland, then Ulster and Connacht, heading in a southwest direction until meeting the Atlantic.
Achill, Ireland’s largest island, is a wonderful walking destination, with Slievemore (671m) and Croaghaun (688m), both schist, the highlights. The latter has lost its western half, long since collapsed into the North Atlantic below, resulting in Ireland’s highest cliffs. If you fancy a hike, go visit Bunnafreva Lough West, Ireland’s highest corrie lake, or indeed Lough Annagh, Ireland’s lowest, perched just metres above the sea level on Achill’s unroaded north coast.
North of Achill and Corraun, we enter the little visited but beautiful barony of Erris. Take some time at Ballycroy National Park visitor centre and discover the flora and fauna of our Atlantic blanket bog landscapes.
The finest beaches in the county are waiting to be discovered along The Mullet peninsula, beyond Béal an Mhuirthead (Belmullet) in the far northwest of Mayo. Walking on sand from Cross beach to Eachléam, look out to St. Brendan’s Inishglora, where the Children of Lir lie, and the twin islands of Iniskea to its south.
From Belmullet, head yet further north, to find the finest sustained sea cliff scenery in Ireland. Placenames like An Ceathrú Thaidhg, Porturlin, Portacloy, Belderg and Céide call you to this extraordinary landscape of blanket bog that runs right to the cliff tops, before falling vertiginously to the foam below. At Benwee Head (sandstone), the cliffs are 255m high and offer wonderful views over the ocean to the remote Stags of Broadhaven (schist) beyond.
Straight across the road from the Céide Fields, the oldest field system in the world, a nice viewing platform gives great views of the stratified rock in the vertical cliff faces. These layers of sandstones, limestones and shale are also wonderfully evident at nearby Dún Briste.
Further eastwards, the cliffs give way to beaches and fertile fields, where the ruined Moyne and Rosserk Abbeys may be visited. Beyond lies the lovely town of Ballina, built on the famous salmon fishery that is the River Moy. With its pleasant Belleek Forest on the bank of the estuary, this fine town brings to an end our quickfire tour of the beautiful coastline of our County Mayo.
Coastline of County Mayo – Highlights
Ireland’s third largest county, Mayo boasts the longest coastline of any in the country. There are endless things to see and visit, but here are some I’ve picked out for you.
1 National Park : Ballycroy
2 Mountains : Mweelrea and Croaghaun
2 Woodlands : Old Head and Belleek Forest
2 Castles : Those of Gráinne Uí Mháille at Carrickahowley and Kildavnet
3 Towns : Westport, Belmullet and Ballina
3 Islands : Inisturk, Iniskea South, Inishglora
3 Pubs : Matt Molloy’s (Westport), McDonnell’s (Belmullet), Úna’s (Blacksod)
5 Cliffs, accessible without a long hike : Far side of Inisturk, above Keem Bay, Benwee Head, Céide, Downpatrick Head
5 Abbeys : Murrisk, Burrishoole, Rathfran, Moyne, Rosserk
6 Beaches : Mulranny, Keel, Keem, Doona, Cross, Lacken
Get in your car or, even better, on your bike and enjoy this wonderful coastline of County Mayo at your leisure.