At the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way in an area of unrivalled coastal beauty lies The Céide Coast of Ballycastle and Belderrig. Stretching from the Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point at Downpatrick Head to the sea cliffs of Ben Mór, Belderrig, there are plenty of things to do in Ballycastle and along The Céide coast.
1. The Downpatrick Head Experience
One of the most popular things to do in Ballycastle and along the Céide Coast is visit Downpatrick Head which offers panoramic views while you take in the stunning Dún Briste sea-stack from the edge of the cliffs. Marvel at the Spirit of Place Installation overlooking “Poll Na Seantainne”– a spectacular natural blowhole. Here, you’ll also find a number of promontory forts, church remains and a World War Two lookout post and land marker.
2. Learn about the world’s earliest farmers at Céide Fields.
Beneath the wild bog-lands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs over 6,000 years old.
Learn the fascinating story of their discovery and mapping, and take in the view from this award-winning building of some of the most spectacular cliffs in Ireland, before relaxing with a coffee in Brambles Café.
3. Celebrate the arts at Ballinglen Arts Foundation.
The Ballinglen Arts Foundation was formed to attract renowned and emerging artists from Ireland and from abroad to live and work in North Mayo, where they could develop their work. This internationally renowned facility plays host to many visiting artists annually, who regularly exhibit their work at the Centre.
The Ballinglen Museum of Art. which opened in July 2020, showcases the huge Ballinglen Permanent Collection, a nationally significant collection of contemporary art created by visiting artists who have each donated a piece to the Foundation.
4. Things to do along the Céide Coast – Enjoy a picnic in The Shambles
The Shambles was originally a place for holding cattle before Fair Days. The Ballycastle/Belderrig Development Company embarked on a rejuvenation project and converted it into a lovely public amenity. So why not pack a picnic and head to Ballycastle?
5. Marvel at the area’s ancient history and heritage.
The Céide Coast is rich in archaeological evidence from the Mesolithic era (6,000 years ago) up to modern times. Check out the Doonfeeney Standing Stone – the second highest in Ireland-church and graveyard remains from the old parishes of Doonfeeney & Kilbride, or visit the Norman castle ruins in Ballinglen. The area also boasts the highest concentration of court-tombs in Europe. In Belderrig, take in a breath-taking view of the village from Uaigh na gCat –“Grave of the cats”– a 3,500 year-old Bronze Age tomb.
Opposite Belderrig Harbour, see the former Fishing Curing Station used during famine times in 1898, established after Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne visited Belderrig.
Tailored Guided Tours are available on request offering a native perspective on the environmental, archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of the Céide Coast, primarily on hidden gems in the Ballycastle area.
Tel: (+353) 86 382 8713 Email: [email protected]
6. Immerse yourself in the Belderrig Valley Experience.
Experience a tour through the Neolithic and Bronze Age Farms in Belderrig, and learn about the people who farmed these fields nearly 6,000 years ago. Hear about the local people who uncovered this story, and see how turf (peat) was cut with a traditional turf spade – you can even have a go yourself!
See clear signs of climate change in a 6,000 year-old forest and examine tree rings in the lab. Learn how ancient strains of barley were grown and try grinding grain into flour on a quern-stone.
7. Take to the waters of the Wild Atlantic.
Among the things to do in Ballycastle and along The Céide Coast is taking a dip in Belderrig’s natural sea pool, or wetting your toes at Ballycastle’s Bunatrahir Bay (check for local tide information).
There are numerous quality dives around Dún Briste Sea Stack, and dives of varying depths off Horse Island, Belderrig.
There is a long tradition of fishing in Belderrig going back six millennia. Bring your rod, fish from the rocks and see what you can catch!
8. Visit Scenic Horse Island.
Horse Island is a natural bird (and sheep!) sanctuary. The main direct route is located on private property -ask the owner’s permission or alternatively, take a scenic route. The island is accessible at low tide but the rocks can be slippery – caution is required. Opposite on the mainland there are Copper mines which were used up until the 1930s.
9. Things to do in Ballycastle – Learn about the area’s Christian heritage
The area’s Christian heritage runs deep. You’ll find the ruins of an early Christian Church at Downpatrick Head, one of the oldest church buildings currently in operation in North Mayo at St. Teresa’s Church Belderrig (dating from 1869) and St. John’s Church of Ireland, which is one of the oldest buildings in Ballycastle.
10. Things to do in Ballycastle and along the Céide Coast – Take to the trails
Of all the things to do in Ballycastle and along the Céide Coast, we can highly recommend lacing up your boots and enjoying a walk to Ballycastle Beach, or taking the Sralagagh Loop Walk – a beautiful trail starting from Ballycastle with breathtaking views of Downpatrick Head.
Take in a portion of the Western Way Walking Route – a linear 150 km walking route from Leenaun, Co.Galway to Ballycastle. It includes long sections on tarmac roads, but the views of the Downpatrick head and the spectacular vista to the north looking to Donegal and Sligo make up for it.
Afterwards, enjoy a homemade meal or a warming cuppa in one of the local cafes.