The incredible Doolough Valley in Mayo is one of those places that rocks you a bit.
The Doolough (Black Lake in English) Valley is a scenic corner of Mayo where unspoiled scenery collides with raw, isolated beauty to deliver an experience that lingers with you long after you leave.
In the guide below, you’ll find out everything you need to know if you fancy visiting the Doolough Valley, from the drive and what to see to much, much more.
Some Quick Need To Knows about The Doolough Valley in Mayo
Although a visit to the Doolough Valley in Mayo is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Doolough Valley winds between the Mweelrea Mountain and Sheeffry Hills along the Wild Atlantic Way between Leenane (Galway) and Louisburgh (Mayo). It’s here that you’ll find the famine memorial cross that is inscribed with a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi. An unspoiled, idyllic place that tempts you to stop and enjoy all that nature has to offer in this part of Ireland.
2. The Doolough Tragedy
At the time, those living in Louisburgh were in receipt of what was known as ‘outdoor relief’, which was a kind of social welfare. On March 30th, 1849, two officials came to the town to see if the villagers were still to be entitled to the relief but, for some reason, they didn’t bother going through with it. More on what happened below.
3. Unparalleled beauty
If you’re blessed with an imagination, it’s easy to think that a pall hangs over this beautiful place, a type of dark cloud that adds to the haunting atmosphere created by its horrible history. The starkness of the land and mountains almost gives it a deserted planet-type appearance as per Star Trek. If you’re blessed not to have such an imagination, you’ll see beauty in every direction.
4. How to see it
This place is, in our opinion, best seen on a cycle or drive from Louisburgh to Leenane (or the other way around). The scenery from start to finish is out of this world.
The Doologh Valley Tragedy
During the Great Famine, those living in Louisburgh, like many in Ireland at the time, were in receipt of what was known as ‘outdoor relief’ – for want of a better description, this was a form of social welfare (i.e. a payment to keep them alive!).
On March 30th, 1849, two officials came to Louisburgh to see if the villages were still to be entitled to the relied but, for some reason, they didn’t bother going through with the inspection.
Instead, they travelled to the Delphi Lodge, located 19km from Louisburgh. Hundreds of people from Louisburgh that had been awaiting the insprection were told to go to the Lodge the following morning, or they would no longer receive the relief.
The Doolough Famine Walk
Although it was winter and most of them had no warm clothing or footwear, they set out at night to walk the journey to Delphi Lodge.
19km might not seem so much today for a healthy individual, but for people suffering from malnutrition, on a road that was barely a track and in freezing conditions, they had no chance.
Many died on the way to Delphi, only for the rest to be turned back empty-handed when they got there. Most died on their way home.
This famine tragedy is remembered at the stone memorial along the Doolough Valley. Two inscriptions commemorate the walk to Delphi; “The Hungry Poor Who Walked Here in 1849 and Walk The Third World Today” and a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi, “How Can Men Feel Themselves Honoured By The Humiliation Of Their Fellow Human Beings.”
Soaking up the Doolough Valley on the Leenane to Louisburgh route
There are many beautiful drives in Ireland, but not many have the haunting aspect of the Doolough Valley.
Shaped by time and ice, it seems right when you come across an inky black lake, fitting that the Valley’s history is reflected in its water.
There’s a parking spot at the north end, giving you a chance to appreciate the view as it’s on a slight incline. You can do a bit of fishing if you want and if cycling’s your thing, lots of tourists cycle through here.
See our gull guide to the Leenane to Louisburgh drive (you can do it from Louisburgh, too!) for more.
Things to do near the Doolough Valley
One of the beauties of the Doolough Valley 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 the Doolough Valley (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. The Lost Valley (25 minutes away)
Directions to The Lost Valley state, “Beyond the end of the road.” One way in and one way out have contributed to the timeless quality of the Valley where potato ridges dating back to the famine lie untouched and famine cottages are hidden in the undergrowth.
2. Silver Strand (23 minutes away)
Unspoiled and almost empty of people, Silver Strand Beach in Mayo, off the Wild Atlantic Way, is reminiscent of the Ireland of old. There’s quite a walk through the sand before you get to the shore, so that’s something to be mindful of.
3. Islands galore (19 minutes away)
The West of Ireland is blessed with inhabited islands, two of which can be reached by ferry from Roonagh Point. Clare Island, home to Grainneuaile Castle, and Inishturk Island, are a short trip from the Valley.
FAQs about visiting the Doolough Valley in Mayo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what to do at Doolough Valley to where to see nearby.
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 Doolough Valley worth visiting?
Yes, it’s well worth a visit, especially if you’re looking to experience a part of Ireland that many who visit tend to miss.
Where do you get the best views at Doolough Valley?
When the valley opens up (near the food truck and past Delphi Lodge), you’ll be treated to glorious views. There’s also a viewing point at the parking area on the Louisburgh side.
What is there to see near Doolough Valley?
You’ve Silver Strand, Inishturk, Clare Island, Aasleagh Falls and much more nearby.