Visiting Downpatrick Head Mayo on a day trip from Galway.
I have to admit, this whole not being able to travel malarkey really had started to get me down. You see travel is in my soul, it is quite possibly a part of my DNA makeup and I had just spent 5 years unable to travel due to Lyme disease so I was more than ready to get back to exploring and make up for lost time. Covid 19 has not been kind to the travel industry. But then I quickly told myself to cop on! I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and thankfully no-one I know has been infected with or lost their life to Corona virus so stop moaning and go out and rediscover Ireland. There are so many things to do in Ireland but I decided on a day trip from Galway to visit Downpatrick Head on the coast of County Mayo.
Downpatrick Head Mayo had been on my bucket list for years and I really don’t know why I didn’t visit sooner. Located about 5km just outside of Ballycastle it is about a 2 hour drive from Galway. People come from all over the world to drive the Wild Atlantic Way and you can even get a Wild Atlantic Way passport at your local post office and get stamps for the places that you have been. It costs €10 but I think it is a lovely way to track your progress around the Irish coastline. Now that Ireland has finally opened up for domestic travel it is time to discover what is beyond your back garden and follow the legendary coastal trail that is open once more for both exploration and relaxation. It’s time to rediscover Ireland.
Downpatrick Head Walk
On a clear day you can see the dramatic sea stack at Downpatrick Head from the nearby Céide Fields Visitor Centre. Visiting Downpatrick Head in Mayo certainly rivals the far more famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare as an experience of nature in the wild. Follow the Wild Atlantic Way signposts to a gravel car park. From there it is a short walk on an incline across rough grass to the cliffs. (I struggled a little with this due to my muscle problems after Lyme but it was managable. It was no problem for a fit Mister Lavin) As always be extremely careful and keep a tight hold of small kids. The cliffs are unfenced and winds can be strong up there.
Downpatrick Head is a majestic place to visit. Jutting out in the ocean and rising almost 40m above the waves, it provides unrivalled views of the Atlantic, including a unique collection of islands known as The Staggs of Broadhaven. The impressive Dún Briste sea stack stands alone in the Atlantic Ocean. From the cliffs edge you can see the different coloured layers of rock and observe the many species of birds that call Dún Briste home. It is a bird watcher’s paradise here!
Dún Briste means Broken Fort in Irish. According to an old local legend, a Druid Chieftain, named Crom Dubh, lived there. He refused to convert to Christianity so St Patrick struck the ground with his crozier and the stack was separated from the mainland, leaving Crom Dubh to die on the top.
The sea has eroded the headland in the area and spouts up to impressive heights through blowholes which are fenced off for safety. ‘Poll na Seantainne’ is a spectacular blow-hole with a subterranean channel to the sea. It is well known in the local history because during the 1798 rebellion 25 men, Irishmen and French soldiers, lost their lives taking refuge on the ledge at the bottom. Unfortunately the tide came in before ladders could be replaced to get them out. There is also the remenants of a World War II lookout post to explore.
In addition to the natural scenery and wildlife, Downpatrick Head is home to the ruins of a church, holy well and stone cross, which together mark the site of an earlier church founded by St Patrick. Ireland’s patron saint is also honoured with a statue that was built in the early 1980s. Given its religious associations, Downpatrick Head was once a popular destination for pilgrims, who came here each year on the last Sunday of July, known as ‘Garland Sunday’. Today that tradition lives on, and mass is still celebrated at Downpatrick Head on that same day.
The landscape at Downpatrick Head is so unique with mounds of green bubbly soft grass. I am really beginning to think that we should invest in a drone to take even more beautiful images for you guys, because this place would look amazing from above.
A trip to Downpatrick Head will be a memorable one. We had such a lovely day and stopped in Foxford on the way home to visit the Foxford Woollen Mills. All of that fresh sea air had us craving fish ‘n’ chips so we picked up a takeaway and found a little wrought iron bench in Foxfood to eat al fresco.
If you are looking for some more Irish inspiration, I have written a blog post on staycations in Northern Ireland cities and I highly recommend a weekend getaway in Kilkenny and other staycation Ireland ideas.
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Until next time you crazy kids!