Are you looking to immerse yourself in Irish culture, history, and heritage?
North Mayo is full of rich historic wonders, big and small, waiting to be discovered. Check out these seven amazing historical sites and cultural attractions and learn of an enchanting and sometimes forgotten past.
1. Trace Ireland’s history at The Jackie Clarke Collection
A collection of Irish material comprised of over 100,000 items that span 400 years, the Jackie Clarke Collection, housed in the beautiful old Provincial Bank is the most important private collection of Irish historical material in public hands.
Learn about Jackie himself, a Ballina businessman and a genius collector of Irish historical material, and the collection, which boasts treasures such as artefacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa.
It also contains rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, works by Sir John Lavery, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from Leaders of the 1916 Rising.
It also contains a rare original copy of the Irish Proclamation, housed in the original bank vault and narrated by Stephen Rea.
2. Experience Ireland’s Religious Past
Take an afternoon to admire the beautifully preserved Abbeys of North Mayo and avail of the fantastic photography opportunities.
The fantastic sacredlandscapes.ie website details and maps 17 of North Mayo’s sacred and historical sites.
3. Explore enchanted Belleek Woods
Walk or cycle through the tranquil Belleek Woods which features some fantastic walking and cycling trails.
There are many historical features from bygone days to unearth in the woods, including a hermitage site, the Knox-Gore Monument also known as “The Horse’s Grave”, a lime kiln, the curious concrete boat, the Crete Boom, and an extraordinary wall built during the famine in Ireland.
There’s also a lovely Fairy Trail, put together by Ballina Men’s Shed for the little ones.
4. Witness the wonders of Belleek Castle
Belleek Castle was built between 1825 and 1831, commissioned by Sir Arthur Francis Knox-Gore and designed by the prolific architect John Benjamin Keanes. The Neo-Gothic architecture of the house met the taste of the time, when Medieval styles became fashionable again. The house is thought to have replaced an earlier structure & is named after the original Belleek Castle, a 13th Tower House Castle situated on the banks of the River Moy.
At one point in its history, the house was used as a hospital and military barracks, but underwent restoration in the 1960s by the hand of Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, who acquired the run down property in 1961 and opened it as a hotel in 1970. Today, the Castle is managed by Marshall’s son Paul Doran and Ms. Maya Nikolaeva.
Enjoy a sensational lunch or dinner in the award-winning restaurant, or a snack in Jack Fenn Courtyard Café and Bistro.
Experience the eclectic Marshall Doran Collection, which will take you to down into the dungeons of the castle and showcases one of the finest collections of arms and armour, fossils and antiques in Ireland.
5. See Mayo’s ancient Céide Fields history brought to life at the Belderrig Valley Experience
Experience the excitement of discovery and of hands-on research in the most intensely researched thirty kilometres of the entire Wild Atlantic Way – the Céide Fields – at the Belderrig Research and Study Centre.
In this day-long archaeological experience you will be introduced to the excitement of discovery in the outdoor ‘laboratory’ with guided walks, demonstrations and hands-on data collection which includes turf cutting and other activities. Indoors at the Research Centre laboratories examine your findings with cutting-edge scientific equipment.
Examine the ring patterns of the trees for knowledge of the age of the tree when it died, whether blown down, burnt or died of natural causes. Identify some of the billion grains of botanical information (pollen) contained in a sod of turf.
For more information and for bookings, contact Declan Caulfield on +35387 2515292 or visit www.belderrigvalley.com.
6. Weave an unforgettable experience at Foxford Woollen Mills
Visitors examining fabrics on the looms at Foxford Woollen Mills
Originally founded by an Irish Sister of Charity in 1892, the fledgling woollen and textiles business overcame many challenges down through the years in order to survive. Today, it is one of our most successful local businesses, famous the world over for its gorgeous throws, scarves, bedlinen, homewares and food.
On your visit, you can enjoy an interactive tour of the working mill, followinga turbulent and fascinating history, where master craftspeople work on some of the world’s finest weaves using techniques and traditions passed down through generations to create contemporary blankets, garments and products that are sought after worldwide.
Call ahead for times and bookings.
7. Trace your family history, or browse the museum at the North Mayo Heritage Centre
Visit the Mayo North Heritage Centre to trace your family history or to browse in the museum, go fishing for brown trout on Lough Conn, or just to relax and switch off from the outside world.
The North Mayo Heritage Centre on the grounds of Enniscoe House is one of North Mayo’s main
attractions, incorporating a family history research centre, affiliated to the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF). The Centre offers a genealogical service to people tracing their ancestry in North Mayo.
The Centre also boasts a museum displaying an impressive array of local farm and household artefacts, a forge and craft training centre dedicated to developing skills in ancient and traditional crafts, a tearoom serving beverages, light lunches and snacks, a shop, selling antique and contemporary collectables.
Alongside the centre you can enjoy the Organic Gardens, and take in the Enniscoe Loop Walk.
Want to see more historical and cultural sites in Co. Mayo?
For more information on Cultural and Heritage Sites in Co. Mayo, Mayo County Council has produced this excellent booklet which you can download here.