The beautiful Ballintubber Abbey is one of the more popular places to visit in Mayo.
This incredible place is the only church in Ireland where Mass has been offered without a break for 800 years. That’s pretty impressive!
While there are plenty of wonderful, awe-inspiring cathedrals and abbeys to visit in Ireland, Ballintubber Abbey has a special place in our hearts, thanks to its gorgeous location, dramatic history and wealth of things to do and see.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about Ballintubber Abbey in Mayo, from where to park to its history.
Quick need-to-knows before visiting Ballintubber Abbey in Mayo
Although a visit to Ballintubber Abbey in Mayo is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
2. Opening hours
The abbey is open every day from 9.00 am to 12 midnight all year round. The Celtic Furrow opens in the months of July and August from 10.00am to 5.00pm.
Guided tours are available from 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Fridays, and Saturday and Sunday by special arrangement. The organisers refer to the tour as an ‘experience’ rather than a visit, which offers time for reflection and a fascinating glimpse into Ireland’s religious history.
The history of Ballintubber Abbey
Founded by King Cathal Crovdearg O’Conor in 1216, the Abbey was built to replace an old crumbling church in the area.
According to Irish folklore, Cathal remembered his old Ballintubber friend, Sheridan, when he ascended the throne, and asked him of there were any favours he could do for him.
Sheridan asked for the restoration of the old church. Instead, Cathal promised him a new one, and the Abbey eventually came into being.
The dissolution period
In 1536 legislation was passed in Dublin dissolving monasteries in line with what was happening in England, but such legislation proved almost impossible to enforce in Ireland, and continued to be so through the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
In 1603, James I confiscated all the lands belonging to the Abbey. From 1603 to 1653, the Augustinian Friars (a mendicant order) may have been in charge of the Abbey, but their presence there disappeared when Cromwellian soldiers burned the Abbey in 1653.
While the fires destroyed the monastic buildings, the cloisters, the domestic quarters and the dormitories, it did not extinguish the Abbey, and divine worship continued – 800 years of it. Restoration work began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th.
St Patrick’s Well
Ballintubber Abbey was built next to a Patrician Church. Ballintubber takes its name from St. Patrick-Baile tobair Phádraig – i.e. the townland of St Patrick’s well.
The well was where St Patrick baptised his converts to Christianity in the area, and a stone alongside is said to bear an imprint of Ireland’s patron saint’s knee.
The Ballintubber Abbey tour
Thanks to its tumultuous history, Ballintubber Abbey is often referred to as ‘the Abbey that refused to die’, with mass continuing even after the Cromwellians destroyed the monastery’s living quarters and left the Abbey without a roof.
The video and guides tell those stories, the attempts at religious suppression and the notorious priest hunter, Seaán na Sagart, employed by the authorities to seek out and often kill Catholic priests. The guided tour is available all year round.
Things to do after you’ve visited Ballintubber Abbey
One of the beauties of Ballintubber Abbey is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Mayo.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Ballintubber Abbey (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Westport (20-minute drive)
20 minutes from Ballintubber is Westport, a lovely little town with picturesque views. Why not climb Croagh Patrick, considered the holiest mountain in Ireland and thought to be the place where Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days in 441 CE. Here are some guides to drop into:
- 11 of the best things to do in Westport
- 13 of the finest restaurants in Westport
- 11 of the best trad pubs in Westport
- 13 of our favourite hotels in Westport
2. Castlebar (15-minute drive)
15-minutes-drive from, the Abbey, Castlebar is another lively place to visit. It’s the county town of Mayo, and its attractions include the National Museum of Ireland and Jack’s Old Cottage. See our guide on the best things to do in Castlebar for more.
3. Knock (35-minute drive)
This village hosts the Knock Shrine, an approved Catholic shrine and place of pilgrimage. The shrine is visited by more than 1.5 million people every year and came about in 1879. On that evening, the villagers had spent their day gathering in the harvest. The something extraordinary happened. Discover the story here.
4. Islands galore
Island hoppers revel! Near to the Abbey is Clare Island and Inishturk Island, and ferries make from Roonagh Pier (45-minute drive) make regular trips there. Near the pier, you also have The Lost Valley, Doolough Valley and Silver Strand Beach in Louisburgh. You can also drive onto Achill Island, which is one hour away.
FAQs about Ballintubber Abbey in Mayo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Glenveagh Castle Gardens to the tour.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Ballintubber Abbey worth visiting?
Yes – the Abbey is packed with history and it’s a nice addition to any Mayo road trip.
When was Ballintubber Abbey built?
The abbey was built in 1216 and it’s the only church in Ireland where Mass has been offered without a break for 800 years.
What is there to do at Ballintubber Abbey?
You can admire the archiceture from the outside and discover the buildings’ history on the Ballintubber Abbey tour.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.