If you’re looking for things to do in Mayo on an upcoming road trip, then the guide below will come in handy!
You’ll find Mayo on Ireland’s West Coast, where the wider county often falls victim to the success of it’s most popular town: Westport.
Don’t get me wrong, Westport is well worth a visit – but there’s an awful lot more to this county than it’s liveliest town.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from hidden gems (like the highest sea cliffs in Ireland) to some of the more popular places to visit in Mayo, like Croagh Patrick.
The best things to do in Mayo (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a nice, quick overview of the most popular places to visit in Mayo, with everything from towns and villages to walks and beaches.
1. Lively towns and villages
Before you decide on what to do in Mayo, it’s worth taking a few minute to have a think about where you fancy staying when you visit.
Mayo’s home to a mix of lively county towns (like Westport) and a clatter of quiet, rural areas, like Belmullet. Here are some of our favourites:
2. Unique places to visit in Mayo
There are plenty of things to see in Mayo that lay a little bit off-the-beaten-path and that rarely make the cover of tourist guidebooks.
Which is a shame, because places like Tourmakeady Waterfall and the Lost Valley punch well above their weight. Here are some of the more unique things to do in Mayo:
- Croaghaun Cliffs
- Mullet Peninsula
- Moyne Abbey
- The Lost Valley
- Doolough Valley
- Ballintubber Abbey
- Ceide Fields
- Tourmakeady Waterfall
3. Brilliant beaches
Some of the best places to visit in Mayo are the seemingly endless sandy stretches that you’ll find dotted along its glorious coastline.
4. Hikes and walks
Arguably some of the top things to do in Mayo involve popping on a pair of hiking shoes and heading off along the coast or up into the mountains.
Now, for some of the hikes in Mayo, you won’t need much planning while for others you’ll need to plan well in advance. Here are some of our favourite walks in Mayo:
- Croagh Patrick
- Erris Head Walk
- Benwee Head Loop
- Tourmakeady Woods
- Belleek Woods
- Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park
5. Gorgeous islands
Many that visit Mayo tend to stick to the mainland, which is a shame, as there are a handful of incredible islands off the coast of Mayo that are well worth exploring.
Especially if you’re looking to dodge the crowds at some of the more popular places to visit in Mayo. Here are four of our favourites:
Our favourite places to visit in Mayo
So, the second section of this guide tackles our favourites/what we think are the best places to visit in Mayo.
These are places that we’ve visited, loved and have been banging on about ever since to anyone that’ll listen!
1. 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.
2. Doolough 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 Doolough 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.
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.
If you’re planning to visit Mayo the chances are that you’ll end up in Westport at one point or another.
The town is a great base to explore Mayo from, with a clatter of pubs and restaurants that’d go toe-to-toe with the best in Ireland. Here are some guides to nip into:
- 11 of the best things to do in Westport
- 11 of our favourite old-school pubs in Westport
- 9 of the finest restaurants in Westport
- 15 of the best hotels in Westport
- 12 brilliant B&Bs in Westport
5. Achill Island
Achill Island is special, there’s 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). See our guide to the best things to do on Achill Island for more.
6. 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. See our guide on things to do in Belmullet for more.
7. Unique accommodation
Although there are plenty of great hotels in Mayo, there’s also a fair few quirky places to stay if you fancy a night away with a difference.
8. Silver Strand
If you’re looking for hidden gems, carve out some time to head for a saunter along Silver Strand Beach in Mayo. 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.
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.
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.
Unique Mayo tourist attractions
Some of the top things to do in Mayo are, in my opinion, the places that either 1, take you off-the-beaten-path or 2, treat you to a nice, unique experience.
This section of the guide is packed with places to visit and things to see in Mayo that tend to get missed by many visiting the county.
1. 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 slightly 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 corrie 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!).
2. The Lost Valley
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. Learn all about it here.
3. Clare Island
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.
4. 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.
5. 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. Discover the rest of the story here.
What to do in Mayo if you fancy an active break
If you’re wondering what to do in Mayo that’ll give your legs a big aul stretch, you’re in luck – County Mayo is home to a fine variety of hikes, ranging from handy to hard.
From some of the county’s most breath-taking coastline to some lesser known hills and peaks, there’s a walk to suit every level of fitness in the guide below.
1. Croaghaun Mountain
‘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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. The Erris Head Loop Walk
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. See our guide to the hike for more.
5. Tourmakeady Woods (one of our favourite things to do in Mayo)
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 (see our guide to the Tourmakeady Waterfall 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.
6. Belleek Woods
The Belleek Woods walk is another handy one if you’re staying in Ballina. There’s a main loop trail in Belleek Woods that stretches 4km long.
You should allow about 90 minutes to tackle it as there are plenty places to stop and soak up the river views.
When you’re finished, nip into the Armada Bar in Belleek Castle – it’s arguably one of the most beautiful pubs in Ireland.
7. Mweelrea Mountain
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 Doolough 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.
This is a hike that’s only suited to experienced walkers and those that are accompanied by a guide.
8. Ballycroy National Park
Next up is another of the often-missed things to do in Mayo – Ballycroy National Park. A fine place for a long (10 hours +) or short walk.
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.
9. Benwee Head
If you’re visiting the North Mayo coast and you’re looking for walks, you’re in luck – there’s a clatter of long and short rambles that’ll take you up and around Benwee Head.
One of the best is the Benwee Head Loop, which takes around 5 hours and that requires some planning, as the trail is tricky in places.
The nearby Portacloy Loop is much handier, although the views it treats you to aren’t as impressive as the Benwee Walk.
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.
More popular tourist attractions in Mayo
The final section of our guide on what to do in Mayo tackles some more tourist favourites, like Cong and Aasleagh Falls.
You’ll also find some of the more unique tourist favourites, like Mayo’s islands (these are well worth seeing) and more.
1. 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.
2. The Céide Fields
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).
3. Inishturk Island
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.
4. Lough Corrib
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.
If you’re looking for things to do in Mayo for families, you can’t go wrong with an evening spent on the Corrib.
5. Aasleagh Falls
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 but, as this is one of the more popular places to see in Mayo, it can get very busy.
5. 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.
6. 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 artifacts, 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 plenty of things to do in Castlebar when you’re finished.
County Mayo points of interest: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there’s plenty of places to visit in Mayo that we’ve unintentionally missed in the guide above.
If there’s something that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and we’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best things to do in Mayo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Mayo if you only have a day to where to go to dodge the crowds.
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.
What are the most unique places to visit in Mayo?
I’d argue the the most unique places to go in Mayo are the Lost Valley and Inishkea. However, the likes of Inishturk and Clare Island are both brilliant, too.
What are the best things to do in Mayo for an active break?
If you fancy an active break, some of the best things to do in Mayo are to try one of the many walks, like Croagh Patrick, Erris Head, the Doolough Famine Walk and more.
What Mayo attractions are the most impressive?
Downpatrick Head tends to be one of the places to visit in Mayo that impress people the most, however Doolough Valley, Tourmakeady Waterfall and the North Mayo coast pack a fine punch, too.