Forget Route 66 – North Mayo has an untapped wealth of road trips to get stuck into.
Ready yourself for a new world rich in history, good food, and beautiful nature with my top 4 best road trips to take in the area.
The Lough Conn Drive is a 102km loop, circling around the glorious Lough Conn, a 14,000 acre lake in North Mayo. It’s a truly fantastic scene to behold – I highly encourage you to go snap-happy with your digital camera.
Start this route in Ballina from the N57, take a right turn after a 1km and head on to the R310 to Castlebar. You will eventually reach the quaint village of Knockmore – as you pass through here, you’ll be able to make out the grandeur of Lough Conn on the right.
The road edges along the side of the water so you can take in the breathtaking view in all its glory, with a superb view of the mountain of Nephin, the second-highest peak in Connacht, standing at an impressive 806 metres high.
Another kilometre along the road, you’ll take the R318 and turn left for Foxford. Silky sandy beaches stretch along the length of the lake on your right, perfect for a little break to stretch your legs and have a bite to eat.
Back on the route, continue to Pontoon and drive over the bridge separating Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Follow the R315 to Crossmolina, through ‘Ireland’s Titanic Village’, Lahardane, which sustained the largest loss of lives from the Titanic tragedy out of any parish in Ireland.
From Crossmolina, take a right again and you’ll reach Ballina in 8km, completing your awesome journey.
This route also jets off from Ballina but heads towards Belmullet on the North West side of County Mayo. The return journey racks up 173km.
From Ballina, proceed towards Killala, passing Kilmoremoy, a treasure trove of archaeological remains and ecclesiastical monuments for the history buffs amongst you.
Continue on the road to Ballycastle, detouring to Kilcummin Stand and you’ll happen across Céide Fields, tantalising the avid historian within you again. Céide Fields is the largest Stone Age site in the world, over 5000 years old and spanning 1500 hectares.
There you can explore the Céide Fields Visitors’ Centre and get your teeth into the geology and archaeology of the North Mayo area.
Once done investigating, continue on the road to Belmullet, right at the sign for Pollathomas, and traverse around a scenic peninsula. Go on to Barnatra, right to Belmullet, and you’ll reach the mullet Peninsula, a gorgeous space with grand cliffs, calm bays and beaches.
Behind the wheel again, go to Bangor on the R313 and make your way back to Ballina.
Gallivant from one of the most Northern points of North Mayo to one of the most westerly points of Broadhaven.
Head south on the R314 towards Ballycastle, a serene country road with fantastic views of the bright green landscape. You could take a short detour here deeper into the village to admire Ballycastle beach.
Back on the road, turn off onto the R315 and continue south, down to Crossmolina, then turn right onto the N59. At Bellacorick, you’ll start tracing the same route as the Oweninny River flows.
At Bangor Erris, switch onto the R313, right through for 19km to Bellmullet, before turning right onto the L1201, soaking up the scenery until arriving at your destination in Broadhaven 10 km further. This seaside town is perfect for those looking to get active, with a wealth of water-sports, beach walks and cycling loops.
For those craving a serious driving experience, the Wild Atlantic Way is sure to captivate you. A 2,500km, spanning the full Irish west coast, from Cork to Donegal.
It’s a hefty route, so if you are looking for something manageable in a shorter period of time, then I highly recommend the most undiscovered part of the route in North Mayo, particularly from Westport to Ballina, via Belmullet.
Dotted with quaint and lively villages, each beholding a wealth of good grub, drink, scenery, and history, it will be a trip to remember.
Along the Wild Atlantic Way, there are over 30 ‘discovery points’ to look out for, including Downpatrick Head in North Mayo. You’ll pass through and stop at splendours like Céide Fields, combing a number of the must-see attractions on these routes into one concise route.
Make time in 2019 to take one (or all!) of these fantastic driving routes in North Mayo.
Soak in the Irish culture and breathtaking scenery and immerse yourself in the experience, detaching from the hustle and bustle of the city, relishing the peace and quiet of the tantalising Irish countryside and coast.
Tom Butcher is a freelance writer who recently escaped the world of print journalism. He covers a wide range of topics, including business, motoring and digital. He is currently working with LeaseFetcher to tell the world about car leasing.