Landmarks Associated with St. Patrick in North Mayo, Ireland - Visit North Mayo

Across North Mayo, this region is home to several landmarks that bear witness to the presence and miracles of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the rich stories associated with St. Patrick in Ballycastle, Lacken, Killala, Ballina, and Crossmolina.


Downpatrick Head, Ballycastle: Defying Darkness

With a strong association to Saint Patrick, Downpatrick Head in Ballycastle is the most famous landmark in our region, and indeed possibly Ireland.

Legend of Crom Dubh:

Legend has it that the tyrannical Celtic chief, Crom Dubh (meaning ‘the dark, stooped one’) lived on the edge of Downpatrick Head. St. Patrick, on paying a visit to the neighbourhood and hearing of his misdeeds, set out to visit him. Seeing the saint approach, Crom Dubh set his dogs on him. The saint, however chastened the hounds.

The “Spirit of Place” installation entitled “The Crossing” at Downpatrick Head
The “Spirit of Place” installation entitled “The Crossing” centred around the blow-hole known as ‘Poll na Seantainne’ at Downpatrick Head along the Wild Atlantic Way. The installation explores the multi-layered relationship between landscape, culture and authentic travel as it relates to Downpatrick Head, North Mayo’s “Signature Discovery Point” on the Wild Atlantic Way. This installation is by renowned architect, Travis Price, and his team from Catholic University, Washington. 📸 Michael Mc Laughlin

Crom Dubh in desperation set a fire with which to hinder Patrick. This did not go down well! Picking up a stone, the holy man hurled it in anger into the middle of the fire, sinking it deep into the earth. Today, this hole is known as ‘Poll na Seantine’ (‘Hole of the Old Fire’) and visitors can gaze from the edges of the blowhole, deep into the sea from the Spirit of Place viewing point.

Upon reaching Crom Dubh, St. Patrick tried to reason with him and convert him to good ways, to no avail. Such was the fury of the conversation that Patrick in frustration struck a blow to the ground so hard that the ground gave way, separating Crom Dubh’s home – and the chief himself – from the mainland.

Dún Briste as seen from a sea cave at Downpatrick Head.
DO NOT ENTER this area or its surrounds without the expertise of a qualitied and registered tour guide who is familiar with the unpredictability of the weather and tide which changes rapidly in this beautiful area.

Crom Dubh had no choice but to remain on the sea stack until the midges ate the flesh from his bones! The separated sea stack today is called Dún Briste (meaning ‘Broken Fort’).

Open-Air Mass on Garland Sunday:

Folklore says St. Patrick founded a church on Downpatrick Head, and the ruins of a later built church now mark the location. A statue was erected in 1912 but later replaced in the 1980s. Open-air mass is celebrated on the headland on Garland Sunday, which is the last Sunday in July (open-air mass is subject to weather conditions). It honours the patron saint amidst the rugged beauty of this iconic landmark.

St Patrick’s Church at Downpatrick Head, Ballycastle County Mayo, Ireland 📸 Mairéad Melody

Foghill, Lacken: A Standing Stone in Time

Foghill Standing Stone:

Nestled in Lacken, the Foghill Standing Stone is steeped in folklore, with some claiming St. Patrick himself erected it. It is more likely the stone was erected long before the arrival of Christianity to Ireland.

In St. Patrick’s “Confessions” the saint mentions only one place name in his writings, ‘Focluth’.

“I heard the voices of those Irish who live near the woods of Focluth near the Western Sea. They called out to me with a single voice: “We beg you, holy boy, come here and walk among us!”

It is believed that Foghill was the ‘Focluth’ mentioned by the Patron Saint of Ireland.

A statue of St. Patrick, erected in 1936, stands as a testament to the saint’s influence in Lacken. The church in Lacken is also dedicated to St.Patrick.

Foghill Standing Stone by Paul Doran
Foghill Standing Stone 📸 by Paul Doran

Killala: Conflict and Conversion

Conflict at Crosspatrick:

The Killala area has strong links to the Patron Saint of Ireland. At Crosspatrick, St. Patrick is said to have come into conflict with the twelve sons of Amalgaid Mac Fiachrae (who gave his name to Tír Amhlaidh/Tirawley) the king of Connacht. It is said that the sons captured Patrick and brought him to the Hill of Tara, the seat of the High King of Ireland, so the King could solve a dispute. This set the stage for a momentous encounter that shaped the region’s history.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Episcopal See:

The appointment of Muiredach Mac Echdach (St. Muiredach) as the first Bishop of Killala by St. Patrick establishes a lasting connection. For centuries St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Killala, now a Church of Ireland, held the Episcopal See until the founding of Ballina Cathedral. This Cathedral was dedicated to the first bishop Muredach. The feast of St. Muredach is 12th August.

The Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland Cathedral are dedicated to St. Patrick in Killala.

A view of Killala’s 17th century cathedral with the 12th century round tower to the right and the souterrain entrance in the foreground. St Patrick in North Mayo
A view of Killala’s 17th century cathedral with the 12th century round tower to the right and the souterrain entrance in the foreground. 📸 by Liz King

Ballina: Miracles at St. Patrick’s Well

St. Patrick’s Well:

On the Killala Road in Ballina lies St. Patrick’s Well, where local folklore tells of conversions and a miraculous fish. It is here that St.Patrick is said to have converted local people; and local folklore available on dúchas.ie reveals the story of a fish that is said to call the well its home.

“In the Blessed well there is a small fish about four inches long with a burned spot on its back. This mark is supposed to be from a burn caused by a woman who caught the fish and tried to cook it. Any one who sees this fish is granted their request.”

St. Patrick’s Well, Ballina

Leigue Cemetery, Ballina: Where Stones Tell Stories

Liag Na Manach – The Great Stone of the Monks

The historic Leigue Cemetery holds a unique connection to St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. It is rumoured in old records and documents from ‘The Life of St. Patrick’ that the saint and his disciple travelled the North Mayo region in the fifth century.

Leigue Cemetery Ballina Co. Mayo Ireland for Mayo North website
Leigue Cemetery Ballina

According to Sacred Landscapes, St Patrick apparently told his companion, who was exhausted by the journey, to build himself a church on the first spot upon where his axe would fall. The location of where Olcan dropped his axe was known as ‘Leac Finn Baile’ – “The Townland of the Great White Stone”, later to be known as “Liag Na Manach” meaning  ‘The Great Stone of the Monks’.

Here Olcan began to build a simple small church titled ‘Ubi-factus est in gentem magnam’, which later grew into the stone structure that resides there today, titled ‘Cill Mor Uachtair Mhuaidhe’ meaning ‘The Great Church of the Upper Moy’.

Liag na Manach. Photo: SacredLandscapes.ie

This monument is deemed to be one of the oldest Christianised monuments in Ireland. Named for ‘Liag’ or also pronounced ‘Leac’, meaning ‘The Great Stone’ , the rock, located at one of the high points of the old graveyard is quite impressive,  with a sculptured cross encrusted in its face.

The Roman Catholic Church in Ballina is dedicated to St. Patrick.


Crossmolina

In the little townland of Truiste, near Crossmolina, St Patrick, travelling along the ancient road from Croagh Patrick to Tirawley, had a rest. Here he drank from a well and blessed it.

Tradition mentions a church also. The well, which was earlier associated with Lughnasad, was associated with baptism and healing – such as the restoration of lost eyesight.

Truiste near Crossmolina

The saint drank from the well and blessed it. The well is said to have the ability to restore eye health.

Check out the shape in the trees over the well!


North Mayo unfolds as a living canvas painted with the vibrant stories of St. Patrick. From the windswept cliffs of Downpatrick Head to the tranquil wells of Ballina and Crossmolina, each landmark whispers tales of conflict, conversion, and miracles – all showing the lasting influence and legacy of Ireland’s beloved patron saint


Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Mayo North Tourism! ☘️