Howaya! If you’re looking for things to do in Mayo during an upcoming trip, then you’re in the right place.
Something that annoys the sh**e out of me is when people say something along the lines of, ‘Sure, you’d only go to Mayo to climb Croagh Patrick or for a night out in Westport’.
That’s like saying the only reason to go to Clare is to see the Cliffs of Moher..!
In the guide below, you’ll find the tourist favourites, like Keem Bay, but you’ll also discover a clatter of things to do in Mayo that you hopefully won’t have known existed!
From the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and a lost valley to an enormous sea stack and plenty more, there’s something below to tickle every fancy.
Things to do in Mayo
1. Discover the hidden gem that is Annagh Bay
We’re going to kick things off with one of the many unique things to do in Mayo – a spin out to Achill Island to see the kinda hidden Annagh Bay.
You’ll find Annagh Bay on the north of Achill, where it’s only accessible via boat or by foot. Now, you’ll get a nice double-whammy of an experience here.
You’ll find a gorgeous beach that you’ll likely have all to yourself and you’ll also get to see Ireland’s lowest corry lake (see above).
This place is like something whipped straight from a far more tropical corner of the world. It’s also reasonably handy to get to if you don’t mind a bit of a hike.
You’ll want to allow around 4 hours minimum for this hike (3 hours to get to and from Annagh Bay and an additional hour to chill and enjoy the view!). Here’s a guide to follow.
2. Visit the north coast of Mayo and discover one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets
Many people, and I’ve been guilty of this myself, completely miss the North Mayo coastline when exploring the Wild Atlantic Way.
Which is a shame, as the coast here is some of the most remote and rugged that Ireland has to offer. It’s also home to the mighty Benwee Head.
There’s a lovely loop walk (here’s a guide) here that follows bog tracks and sheep paths and that’ll treat you to mighty views of towering cliffs and a clatter of coastal scenery.
3. Explore the Lost Valley (one of the best things to do in Mayo that’s often missed)
If you’re looking for things to do in Mayo that the vast majority of people who visit the county tend to miss, this next place, the Lost Valley, will make you happy.
If you haven’t heard of it, the Lost Valley is a corner of Mayo that has remained largely untouched since the villagers who lived there were evicted and driven out during The Great Famine of the mid-1800s.
The valley is privately owned by the Bourke family, who’ve owned and farmed it over a century. Before owning it, they were employed by a landlord to farm in the valley and, interestingly enough, before that they were one of the families evicted.
The Lost Valley is now a working farm where visitors can experience farm life and head off on a fully guided cultural adventure. The tour here lasts around 3 hours and you can expect to see:
- The valley in all of its glory
- A ruined famine village with potato ridges that have lain undisturbed for nearly two centuries.
- Pet lamb feeding
- A working sheepdog demonstration
4. Visit Clare Island and spend the night in a lighthouse
You’ll find Clare Island Lighthouse, unsurprisingly enough, on Clare Island in County Mayo where it’s been standing proudly since 1806.
That’s pretty damn impressive! The lighthouse is finely plonked high up on some of the island’s cliffs, offering an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.
The current owner purchased the lighthouse in 2008 and ensured that it was carefully renovated back to its former glory. It’s now available to rent for those looking for unusual places to stay in Ireland.
Clare Island is situated just off the south Mayo coast at the entrance to Clew Bay. Visitors to the island can expect spectacular cliffs, hills, bogs, and woodlands.
5. Gaze at thousands of layers of history at Downpatrick Head
One of my favourite things to do in Mayo is to spend a couple of hours at Downpatrick Head. It’s here that you’ll find the enormous sea stack known as Dún Briste jutting out of the ocean at 40m above the wild Atlantic waves.
Dún Briste was formed over 350 million years ago when sea temperatures were higher and the coastline was a greater distance away from its current position.
Although I’ve visited this place 7 or 8 times now, it never seems to lose its knock-you-on-your-ar*e factor! There’s a little car park on-site here and the walk to the sea stack takes less than 10 minutes.
6. Step back in time at Doo Lough Valley
If you’re looking to experience Ireland’s raw beauty up close, there are few places that pack a punch as mighty as the Doo Lough Valley.
I love this place. Mountains just seem to melt together as far as the eye can see and the valley is rarely (based on my previous 3 visits) busy with cars or people.
If you visit, keep an eye out for a plain stone cross engraved with the words ‘Doolough Tragedy 1849’. This memorial marks a tragic event that took place during the Great Famine during the mid 19th century.
There’s a lovely drive between Louisburgh (Mayo) and Leenaun (Galway) that you can do here (here’s a guide to follow).
7. Hike Croaghaun Mountain and experience the highest sea cliffs in Ireland
‘Hold on a minute – the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland!’ So, this is something that tends to cause a fair bit of confusion online.
The Slieve League Cliffs are the highest cliffs on the ISLAND OF IRELAND. The cliffs at Croaghaun (on Achill Island) are THE HIGHEST IN IRELAND (and the third highest in Europe).
Croaghaun is a big aul 688 metres (2,257 ft) high mountain on Achill Island in Mayo. The cliffs here can be found at the northern slope of the mountain and can only be admired if you hike around to the summit (or if you sail below them).
If you fancy seeing them (or if you’d just like to read more about them) hop into our guide to the Croaghaun Cliffs.
8. Catch one of the best views in the land from the top of Croagh Patrick
I climbed Croagh Patrick once, back in 2016. I was fresh out of back surgery and my dad had a dodgy hip, and we hadn’t actually planned on going the whole way to the summit.
But we did and the view out over Clew Bay was like something plucked straight from an oil painting.
The time it takes to complete the hike will vary, depending on pace. We did it relatively slowly and it took around 4.5 hours.
If you’d like to give this hike a lash, you’ll find everything that you need to know in our guide to climbing Croagh Patrick.
Related read: Discover loads more places to visit like Croagh Patrick in our guide to 77 of the best things to do in Ireland.
9. Have a ramble around Cong Village
The little village of Cong shot to fame in 1952 when it was used as a filming location for the award-winning movie ‘The Quiet Man’, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
It’s here that you’ll find a gorgeous village, the ‘Quiet Man Cottage’, the very swanky Ashford Castle, an old Abbey and plenty more.
I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve enjoyed stopping off in Cong for coffee (Puddleducks Café is a grand spot to nip into) and to stretch the legs on many visits to Mayo.
10. Visit the Céide Fields (the most extensive Stone Age monument on earth)
Beneath the boglands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, as it happens.
The Céide Fields are an archaeological site that is home to the oldest known field systems, dwelling areas, and megalithic tombs on earth.
The magnificent stone-walled fields extend out over thousands of acres and are an incredible 6,000 years old.
Visitors can learn more about the fields on a guided 40-minute tour for just €5 (adult ticket).
11. Saddle up and spin along the Great Western Greenway
If you’re the type of traveller that prefers to explore by bike, then stop 11 will be right up your street.
The Great Western Greenway spans an impressive 43.5km and follows a section of a 19th-century Midlands Great Western Railway route.
It now takes cyclists from the buzzy town of Westport to the picturesque island of Achill. Expect exceptional views from start to finish.
Westport Travel Guide: Visiting this part of Mayo? Find loads more to see in our guide to the best things to do in Westport.
12. Spend the night in a very swanky castle
If you’re feeling fancy, you can spend a night in the very swanky 800-year-old Ashford Castle.
I’ve walked around the grounds here in the past (there’s a grand little cafe to grab a coffee from) and they were impressive.
I can’t imagine what it’d be like to kick-back here for a night… Here’s what the folks at Ashford Castle say about the place:
‘Your royal adventure begins when you enter through the grand stone gates of our remarkable 800-year-old castle. Discover our exquisite interiors, delicious cuisine, passionate team, a wealth of estate activities and state-of-the-art spa.
Related Read: Check out our guide to 13 of the best castle hotels in Ireland.
13. Or grab 40 winks somewhere just as unique (and far more pocket-friendly)
If you’ve had a nosey through our guide to the best places to go glamping in Ireland, you may recognise the deadly little glampsite above.
You’ll find these luxury pods at the coast guard station in the heart of Erris, on Claggan Island, right next to the sea.
The pods can sleep up to 4 adults and cost just €90 per night during the summer season. Now, there’s a minimum 2-night stay, but if you visit with a group of 4, it’ll only cost you €45 per person for two nights.
Or, if you fancy kicking-back in Westport, you’ll find a heap of unique places to stay in and near the town in our Westport Airbnb guide.
14. Visit Inishturk Island and discover another (yep, Mayo has plenty) hidden gem
I first heard of Inishturk Island from a friend at work. At the time, I was embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard of it.
I was even more embarrassed when he showed me photos of the place. Inishturk is a little chunk of unspoiled paradise on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Perched atop of towering cliffs and steep hills, the island juts out of the wild North Atlantic Ocean, reaching 621ft at its highest point.
Home to under 100 people, the island is situated 6 km from the little town of Louisburgh. If you fancy exploring the island when you visit Mayo, you can reach it by ferry.
Mulranny is a fine little base for a mini staycation. This little seaside village can be found at the foot of the Nephin Mountain Range, between Clew Bay and Blacksod Bay.
The area is home to a number of unreeeeeeal beaches, like the one you can see in the photo above.
This is another spot that’s located on Mayo’s Great Western Greenway, so if you’re looking for active things to do in Mayo when you visit, you can easily use Mulranny as a base for a nice long cycle.
16. Whittle away an evening with pints and live music at Matt Molloy’s in Westport
If you’re planning to visit Mayo the chances are that you’ll end up in Westport at one point or another.
If you end up staying in the town, head to Matt Molloy’s for a pint and some live music (June 2020 update: it’s still unclear how live music will work in pubs at the moment).
This is a buzzy pub that usually has a lineup of traditional music playing seven nights per week.
Traveller Tip: Fancy visiting a non-touristy pub during your time in Westport? Nip into Toby’s Bar for a pint.
17. Visit Keem (one of the finest beaches in Ireland)
Achill Island is special, there are no two ways about it. Connected to the mainland by the Michael Davitt Bridge, Achill is scattered with peat bogs, rugged mountains and towering sea cliffs.
It’s also home to an abundance of beautiful beaches and bays. The biggest draw on the island, for me, is the secluded Keem Bay.
I’ve visited Keem around 4 times over the years and on two of those occasions, I had the whole place to myself (near sunset during late Autumn).
18. Head for a ramble on the Erris Head Loop Walk (one of the best places to visit in Mayo if you want to “Go Wild”)
The Erris Head Loop Walk is one of those walks that’ll banish the stickiest of cobwebs.
If you’ve never been to Erris, it’s a remote little corner of Mayo that stretches from Ballycroy National Park to the Mullet Peninsula.
Back in 2014, it was crowned ‘Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland’ by The Irish Times, thanks to its balance of nature, wilderness, beauty, activities, and accessibility.
If you’re looking to see the landscape up close, the Erris Head Loop Walk is well worth a bash. Here’s some quick info on the walk:
- Walk time: 2 to 2.5 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Discover Ireland has prepared a handy guide to the walk here
19. Head for a ramble around the often-missed Tourmakeady Woods
We’re off to Tourmakeady, next! This is a little town that’s located in the largest Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) in Ireland (around 35 minutes from Croagh Patrick).
The woods here are the perfect place for a ramble. Grab a coffee in the village and head for a stroll along some of the gorgeous, quiet forest trails.
There’s a lovely walk that you can do here that’ll take you along forest tracks and past a lovely little waterfall (bash the play button on the video above).
This is another place that’s well worth the visit that tends to get omitted from many guides to the best things to do in Mayo.
20. Grab a mighty view out over Ashleam Bay
If you’re exploring Achill Island, and particularly if you follow the Atlantic Drive, you’ll come across the incredible Ashleam Bay and the very bendy road that leads down towards it.
There’s a little pull-in area where you’ll be able to park up for a bit and soak up the view of the bay below and the wonderfully mental road next to it.
The last time that I drove down this road, a bloke was moving sheep and they were legging it all over the place. A very Irish experience altogether.
21. Walk and hike your way around the wild and untouched Ballycroy National Park
Next up is another place that those planning a visit to Mayo tend to miss – Ballycroy National Park.
If you’re looking to go off the grid for a bit, dodge tourists, and experience a bit of Ireland that’s wild and remote beyond belief, then this ones for you.
Established in 1998, Ballycroy National Park boasts 15,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and rugged mountainous terrain. Visitors here can expect to find:
- The largest example of active Atlantic blanket bog in Western Europe
- Slieve Carr (Ireland’s most remote mountain)
- A variety of wildlife, like red fox, pine marten, otter, and red deer.
There are several walks you can head off on in the park (ranging from 6 hours to 12 – here’s a full guide).
22. Try your hand at kite surfing on Achill
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Mayo with a group of friends, head to Keel on Achill and try your hand at water sports.
The island is home to a number of blue flag beaches which make it the perfect destination for those looking to try surfing, kayaking and other water-based activities.
23. Or attempt to tame the waves at Louisburgh
If you’re in the Louisburgh area, visit the lads at SurfMayo – they’ve been on the go since 1998 and I’ve heard from a number of people that the lessons here are top-notch.
They cater for groups and first-timers, so don’t worry if you’ve never given surfing a lash before – you’ll learn the ropes here!
If you’re in search of active things to do in Mayo with kids, there’s a kids surf camp that helps kids understand water safety, wave knowledge and plenty more.
24. Soak up the sights from the water on a Lough Corrib cruise
If you fancy seeing Mayo from a different angle, take a spin out to Ashford Castle or Lisloughrey Pier and climb aboard a Lough Corrib Cruise.
The cruises take you along Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland. You’ll get to see a clatter of sights from the comfort of the little boat and your host will provide detailed commentary along the way.
There are a couple of different cruises that you can do with the lads at Corrib Cruises. I’ve heard good things above the morning one-hour history cruise that leaves from Ashford Castle (departs at 11:00).
25. Climb Mweelrea mountain (for experienced hikers only)
At 814 metres, Mweelrea mountain is the highest mountain in Connacht. It’s made up of five peaks and is flanked by the inky waters of Killary Harbour on one side and Doo Lough on the other.
On a clear day, those that reach its summit will be treated to some of the finest coastal views in Ireland, with the Ben Gorm Mountains, the Twelve Bens in Connemara, the Maumturks, and the Sheeffry Hills all visible from the top.
If you’re not an experienced climber, this one isn’t for you. If you are and you fancy giving it a crack, here’s a detailed guide to follow.
26. Listen to the water plop at Aasleagh Falls
So, I always thought that Aasleagh Falls was situated in Galway… In fact, I’m pretty sure that we have it listed in our guide to the best things to do in Galway…
You’ll find this little waterfall a stone’s throw from the little village of Leenane, where (hopefully I’m getting this right…) it’s sat just off the Galway/Mayo border.
It’s located on the River Erriff, just before the river meets the magnificent Killary Harbour. This is a nice little spot to clear the head.
There’s parking nearby and you’ll often (basing this on my last few visits during the autumn and winter months) have the place all to yourself.
27. Explore the Mullet Peninsula
This is another one for those of you looking for slightly off the beaten path places to visit in Mayo. You’ll find the often-missed Mullet Peninsula in the northwest of the county.
It’s here that you’ll discover gorgeous, craggy coastline, beautiful unspoiled beaches (Elly Bay is worth a visit!), three lighthouses and endless tracks and trails for long coastal walks.
For some reason, the Mullet Peninsula still falls into the ‘hidden gem’ category. Many of those that visit Mayo tend to either pass it by or fail to even realise that it exists.
Which, of course, makes it the perfect spot for a bit of exploring without the crowds. Just you, a clatter of scenery and a boatload of peace and quiet. Magic!
28. Take a spin out to the Knock Shrine
The story of Knock began on the 21st of August, 1879 when 15 people from the village witnessed an Apparition.
The Apparition was of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and a Lamb on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.
It’s said that the 15 people watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for 2 hours and that although they themselves were soaked by the rain, not a single drop fell on the gable or vision.
The group ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old and each person gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The Commission found that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.
29. Head for a saunter along Silver Strand
If you’re looking for hidden gems, carve out some time to head for a saunter along Silver Strand. This is a remote little beach that’s a handy spin from the town of Louisburgh.
On the last couple of occasions that I’ve visited, I’ve had the whole, glorious place all to myself. The water here is crystal clear and the mountain backdrop will make your eyes happy.
If you visit with kids, there are sand dunes for them to leg it about in and the water is perfect for a little paddle.
30. Spend a weekend in Newport
Many people that visit Mayo tend to base themselves in Westport. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It wasn’t until 2017 that I used Newport for a base for a few nights.
Since then, I’ve been using it as a base to explore Mayo any time that I visit. Newport is a little village that’s a grand spot if you plan on cycling the Great Western Greenway.
There’s a gorgeous harbour here that’s supposed to be great for fishing and there’s a nice, pokey little main street. Brannen’s pub is also a mighty little spot.
I spent far too many hours in there on my own one winter – the interior is old-school, those working there (when I visited, anyway) were friendly and the Guinness was the business.
31. Clear the head with a ramble along Kilcummin Beach
If you’re in search of places to visit in Mayo that’ll take you slightly off the beaten path, point your car/bike/nose in the direction of Kilcummin.
There’s a couple of gorgeous beaches here that are perfect for a saunter along (Kilcummin Beach and Lacken Strand).
Kilcummin is a proper hidden gem on the mighty North Mayo coastline. Hop out of the car, kick off your shoes and socks, and suck down fresh sea air as you saunter along the golden sand.
This is another place that’s perfect for those of you looking to dodge the crowds. A fine spot for an early morning ramble to clear the head.
32. See the ruins and discover the terrible tale behind Moyne Abbey
The ruins of Moyne Abbey are one of the lesser-known tourist attractions in Mayo. You’ll find them in Killala, not far from the town of Ballina.
This was once a friary and it was founded way back in 1460. The ruins here are pretty damn impressive; there’s a six-story square tower, a renaissance door, a vaulted chapter room and plenty more.
There’s a dark bit of history associated with Moyne Abbey. In 1579, a priest named John O’Dowd was tortured and killed by the English.
Then, in 1590, the English governor of Connacht, a prick named Sir Richard Bingham, burned the Abbey.
Not long after, in 1582, an old man named Felim O’Hara was killed by cowardly English soldiers in front of the Abbey’s high altar. Discover more of Moyne Abbey’s history here.
33. Dive into history at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
The National Museum of Ireland-Country Life in Castlebar is a branch of the National Museum of Ireland.
Visitors to the museum can experience the story of Irish country life between 1850 and 1950 via a clatter of artefacts, displays, archival video footage, and interactive screens.
Soak up some history for a bit and then head for a stroll through the stunning grounds of Turlough Park (where the museum is situated).
There’s also a handy little cafe on-site if you fancy grabbing a coffee and chomping away on a scone.
What County Mayo points of interest have we missed?
There’s 100% heaps of more worthwhile places to visit and things to do in Mayo that we’ve unintentionally left out.
If you’d like to recommend somewhere to be added, just pop a quick comment into the comments section at the end of this guide! Cheers!