The parish of Moygownagh, located on the R315 between Crossmolina and Ballycastle, is a small-but-mighty gem in the heart of the North Mayo countryside, boasting some incredible historical secrets.
Moygownagh was an ancient name. A legend referring to events in the 5th or 6th century relates how St. Cormac – a missionary to the North-West of Ireland – was received so hospitably by St. Daria, Abbess of a nunnery where the old graveyard stands now, that he blessed her and her lands with the name of Magh Gamhnach – which means ‘the plain of the Milch Cows‘ (i.e. cows within their first year of calving).
Moygownagh as a parish began life in the mid 13th century just as the Normans were establishing themselves in North Connacht under the de Burgo, who was granted the Kingdom of Connacht, and allotted the fertile lands of Tirawley to his loyal followers.
Today, it is a small but close-knit parish, and a place where you can easily while away a day exploring its many stories – check out our list below of things to explore and enjoy.
Moygownagh Loop Walk (15km)
The unique beauty of the 15km Moygownagh Walk, begins near St. Cormac’s Church in the village. 6,000 years of history unfolds itself on this trail, as you gradually travel west from green drumlin belt farms of the Moy Valley to the blanket bogs of North West Mayo, via Blanemore Forest on a ridge that overlooks the ancient pine forests of the Bronze age, which lie preserved as “bog-deal” logs in the cut-away bog.
Continuing on you will walk into the beautifully wooded country lane that skirts a former landlord estate. Please be advised that this a private property so keep to the signposted walk, do not leave the public road nor enter the grounds of the estate. Continue along this ‘old boreen’ by following the red arrows which link back with main road to the village. The trail may be walked or cycled except for the boardwalk in Blanemore.
Blanemore Forest Archaeological Walk & Wild Camping
Blanemore Forest is a treasure chest packed with historical secrets. Underneath the bog-lands of North Mayo, 6,000 years of historically importance was uncovered, sacred tombs, mysterious standing stones and field walls to name a few. The walk was reopened in July 2023, after receiving substantial upgrades to the trails and seating areas following forestry operations. It is now fully buggy and bike friendly and is also accessible for wheelchairs, although due to the surface care must be taken as it is very bumpy in places.
Take a deep breath , inhale the history and see the sites of where your ancestors once walked. Don’t just experience North Mayo – be a part of it!
Looking for somewhere a little different to stay? Blanemore Wild Camping has you covered. Pitch up a tent in the peace and tranquillity of the topped wildflower meadow, they even have hard standing for a limited number if camper vans. Due to the remote nature facilities are limited but the basics are covered. For more info visit Blanemore Wild Camping Facebook.
Saints & Sinners History Tour
The unique Saints and Sinners Tour is a self-guide smartphone app, which guides visitors around fourteen wonderful heritage sites in Moygownagh, similar to the Blanemore Forest Walk guide launched a few years ago. With GPS enabled guidance, used with text, audio and video information for each site, the tour breathes new life into poignant survivors of our local history, in and around the village of Moygownagh.
The Saints & Sinners Tour makes for a lovely day hike. We recommend you stop off at Mitchell’s of Moygownagh afterwards for supplies or perhaps a pint to refresh yourself!
The tour is also now available as a virtual guide, with audio commentary, videos and guide book text, via their website HERE. So you can visit Moygownagh in your bedroom (or wherever you use your laptop!).
Carn Tower and Castle
Carn Tower is a small defence look-out tower, probably built during the Jacobite wars, around 1689. It consists of a round stone structure ringed with gun loops for muskets, and a (now disappeared) second level with two lookout windows.
The conical roof was fashioned using an ‘upside down’ wickerwork dome, upon which the stones were set. The remains of the long vanished wickerwork may yet be seen in the lime plaster inside the tower.
Carn tower or ‘Túrchoid Carn’ was built upon the remains of an early castle, the last fragment of which is located on its side beside the tower. The earthworks beneath, along with the orientation of the ancient Carn road, may delineate the original defences of this castle.
For more information on Moygownagh please visit: moygownagh.ie
The Mayo North Tourism would like to thank Liam Alex Heffron for the information kindly provided in this web-post. We would also like to thank Mike Kinsella for allowing us to use his photos.