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6 Dec

Wild at Heart – Top 10 places along the Wild Atlantic Way in Mayo (Part 1)

The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2500km (1500 miles) driving route, which traverses the entire rugged and spectacular west coast of Ireland from Cork through counties Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim to Donegal.

In Mayo the Wild Atlantic Way is a 543km coastal drive and much of Mayo’s spectacular natural scenery lies along it.

To help you discover the best of the Wild Atlantic Way in County Mayo, we’ve put together some of our favorite places to explore. Don’t forget to let us know how you get on by sharing your photos on our facebook page (link).

Silver Strand

Silver Strand is a magical and untouched beach located about 25km past the small village of Louisburgh. It’s a beautiful sandy beach that looks out towards Clare Island. It has a rich archaeological heritage with over 700 known archaeological monuments, and 20 areas of scientific interest. There are court-tombs at Furmoyle and Aillemore, a megalithic wedge-tomb at Srahwee, a clapperbridge (a stone bridge with 37 arches) at Killeen, and numerous other monuments, especially around Killadoon. It’s one beach not to miss!

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Old Head

Old Head beach is about 10 minutes west of Murisk on the way towards Louisburgh. It’s sheltered by Old Head Woodlands, one of the last old native woodlands in Mayo and a Special Area of Conservation. To the south you have stunning views of Croagh Patrick. In the summertime, you’ll find plenty to do along the golden shores, including stand up paddle boarding. There’s a local café and pub to grab lunch. At low tide, the beach has some beautiful rock pools where a number of animal species can be found.

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Clare Island

Clare Island is the largest of Mayo’s offshore islands located about 4 mils off the West Coast. It’s the largest of Clew Bay’s 365 islands, about 15 square miles.

The first thing you’ll notice are the spectacular cliffs, before you head inland and across the gorgeous mountain terrain. From the peak of Knockmore (461m), you’ll see perfect beaches, which have some great dive sites just off-shore. It’s a perfect place for hikers, history buffs and nature lovers, with large colonies of sea birds, alpine flora and neolithic and bronze-age archaeology.

The castle and burial place of the famous ‘Pirate Queen’ Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile) are on the island.

It’s also one of the best sunsets you’ll see while you’re travelling through County Mayo.

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Killary Harbour

Killary Harbour (or An Caoláire Rua in Irish) is Ireland’s only fjord, and which separates the countries of Mayo and Galway. It is 16 kilometers long and in the centre over 45 metres deep. On its northern shore lies the stunning mountain of Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest mountain (814m). Make sure to take the Leenaun road from Louisburgh for the best drive. As you pass through Delphi, you’ll come to the beautiful Aasleagh Falls at the head of Killary Harbour, here the Erriff tumbles down a couple of metres before flowing into the sea; the scenery is wild and unforgettable.

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Murrisk Viewpoint

The Murrisk view point is located just opposite the Croagh Patrick Hostel and Cottages, and can be accessed via two paths on the opposite side of the road. Follow the south shore of Clew Bay at the base of Croagh Patrick, past the Murrisk Cemetery and Murrisk Abbey. It’s particularly beautiful at low tides, with access to some of the small islands around the shore edges.

There are many pleasant walking trails to enjoy from the Discovery Point around the Bay and to Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, where according to legend St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland.

Overlooking the sea is the dramatic National Famine Monument, an outstanding John Behan sculpture depicting a skeleton strung ‘coffin ship’.

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