Destinations,Europe,Ireland

Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland – From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes

Let me show you County Mayo’s top attractions and hidden gems along the Wild Atlantic Way. If you’re in need of a getaway that’s equal parts adventure and relaxation, you’ve landed in the right spot. In this travel guide, I’ll reveal the top 5 things you absolutely can’t miss while exploring Co. Mayo in Ireland. From the jaw-dropping cliffs of Downpatrick Head to the peaceful vibes of coastal hikes, I’ve got all the must-do activities lined up for you. So, let’s get ready to explore County Mayo and make some memories!

Check out my 4-day Irish adventure in County Mayo blog post for prices, a detailed 4-day itinerary, foodie places, moreover a Co Mayo map.

Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Best places to visit in Co. Mayo, Ireland

On the following Wanderlog map, you can see the main tourist attractions, best outdoor spots and natural beauties, beaches, coffee places, restaurants and our 4-day itinerary for Mayo. On the map, you can see the actual points, and it’s also possible to turn off and on layers. 

Map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner on iOS and Android

Watch this Short on YouTube for the must-visit places in Co. Mayo, Ireland!

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Where to stay in County Mayo?

We selected Ballina as our base because it has easy access to all parts of County Mayo. The charming town also offered dining options. 

Ballina Hotel Manor

Ballina Manor Hotel is situated right by the riverside in the heart of Ballina. The hotel had an eclectic vibe with the decorations. While our room differed slightly from the images we viewed during booking, it was spacious, and the large, comfy bed compensated us every night. 

Let’s talk breakfast. The hotel offered a diverse menu that tempted us each morning. Personally, I found the Classical Eggs Benedict and the Veggie Breakfast to be the tastiest options. Despite the seemingly modest portion size of the Eggs Benedict, it satisfied me, and the Veggie Breakfast was equally enjoyable. I opted to substitute the potato for an additional egg and mushroom, though. Jackson’s Full Irish breakfast was also tasty, but I found the potato and black pudding a bit heavy for an early morning meal.

It’s worth noting that each dish is accompanied by a selection of juices, coffees, teas, jams, butter, toast, and a refreshing fruit salad with yoghurt.

The restaurant was also an option for dinner.

The staff at the Ballina Manor Hotel were exceptionally attentive and accommodating.

Overall, the Ballina Manor Hotel provided us with a comfortable and enjoyable stay during our exploration of County Mayo.

Ballina Hotel Manor - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Ballina Hotel Manor - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Ballina Hotel Manor - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Ballina Hotel Manor - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Here are the top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland

1. Adore Downpatrick Head

The reason behind visiting Mayo was Downpatrick Head. I really wanted to see this unique sea stack at the Wild Atlantic Way 🙂 

There’s no admission fee, so just park your car at the spacious parking lot. There was also a portable toilet, probably the cleanest one I’ve ever been to. Even had toilet paper. 

Then, walk along the coastline to the sea stack called Dun Briste (‘The Broken Fort’ in English). But what happened to it? There are 2 stories…

  • Story 1: It was separated from the coast by a violent storm in the 14th century. 
  • Story 2: According to an old legend, a man lived there who refused to convert to Christianity. St Patrick got angry, struck the ground with his crozier and the cliff got separated with the man on it. 

What do you think? How did it get separated from the land?

It doesn’t matter which story you believe. Downpatrick Head is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. The entire coastline is a spectacle, the panorama is breathtaking, and the fluffy grass underfoot invites exploration. We spent around an hour wandering around. You’ll also find St Patrick’s statue and the Eire 64 sign from WW2. First, we didn’t notice the sign made of stones, even if we were next to it. There wasn’t a higher spot to take a better look at it.

Downpatrick Head - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Downpatrick Head - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Downpatrick Head - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Downpatrick Head and Eire 64 sign - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland

2. Hike and immerse yourself in the beautiful views

There are many hikes in Mayo, from easy to challenging levels. We consider ourselves moderate hikers. My boyfriend isn’t a fan of hard hikes, so we did only easy and moderate walks and skipped the best view from Croagh Patrick.

Luckily, even the easy hikes offer gorgeous views. You’ll see…

The best hikes in Mayo 

Hike the Murrisk mountain loop and/or Croagh Patrick trail

The 765 m high Croagh Patrick is Mayo’s most famous symbol and a Holy Mountain for the Irish. 

To reach the Croagh Patrick parking lot, search for Murrisk car park on Google Maps. You’ll definitely find space in the spacious parking area. There were parking machines, though none of them were operating, so we didn’t pay for parking… 

There’s a map with different routes. According to Alltrails, Croagh Patrick trail is challenging. We aren’t that experienced hikers, so we went for the easier solution…

We completed the 3,4 km Murrisk Mountain loop in an hour and 10 minutes, including photo breaks, confusion and talking to the sheep… 

The beginning, also part of the Croagh Patrick hike, was a bit steep but offered a breathtaking view of Clew Bay. 

After taking a left turn to our trail, we didn’t meet anyone, perhaps due to the late hour (4:30 pm) or the barely visible path… Lacking a distinct route, marked only by poles with purple signs amidst wet, muddy ground. The final part, next to the road, provided a more straightforward trail.

I’m not sure that I’d recommend this loop, but definitely not after rainy weather. If I could do it again, we’d just do the Croagh Patrick trail until we could and turn back. 

Clew bay - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Croagh Patrick - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Hike the Murrisk mountain loop - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland

Portacloy Loop-Cliff walk and Benwee Head trail

This was part of the trip when I didn’t want to believe how beautiful Ireland is. We had perfect weather with sunshine and gorgeous blue sky, so the panorama was beyond imagination. 

Portacloy Loop-Cliff Walk is part of the 13 km Benwee Head Trail on AllTrails, which promises an unimaginable view for those with more time. We opted for the shorter route, the Portacloy Loop-Cliff Walk, from Portacloy Beach to the Eire sign. The view was breathtaking even on these few kilometres.

We parked the car at Portacloy Beach, and just followed the purple arrow, this time with better luck. Initially, the path was elusive, luckily the sheep tried to help us. The trail became clearer after crossing the gate, and signs guided the way. Panoramic views of the bay, sea, cliffs, and a distant Downpatrick Head made the journey worthwhile. Before reaching the Eire 63 sign, you can also look at the other bay, which would be more visible from the whole Benwee Head trail. 

The Eire 63 sign offered a vista with Downpatrick Head in the distance. The equally stunning return provided a view of the bay and the beach. 

Covering the easy 3-4 km loop took about an hour. Surprisingly, we had the trail to ourselves.

Portacloy Loop-Cliff Walk - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Benwee Head Trail - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Portacloy Loop-Cliff walk and Benwee Head trail - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

More hikes to add to your Mayo trip

  • Erris Head Loop Walk
  • Mweelrea
  • Lough Aroher Loop or Letterkeen Looped Walk in Wild Nephin National Park
  • Achill Island hikes

3. Drive along the Wild Atlantic Way 

Drive along Killary Fjord

Killary Fjord is located at the border of County Galway and Mayo. The fjord has many resting areas and parking areas, so you can stop at many places for a stunning view of hills, water, and, of course, sheep.

Drive carefully because sheep around the lakeside don’t turn right or left before crossing the road. And this goes for the whole County Mayo 🙂

If you have extra time, you could also include in your itinerary a Killary Fjord boat tour starting from the fjord’s Galway side. Unfortunately, the timetable didn’t align with our schedule, so we skipped the boat tour this time.  

Killary Fjord - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Stop at Doolough Valley Famine Memorial and adore the view of Doo Lough

This Wild Atlantic Way stop offers a gorgeous view of the Doo Lough (in English means Black Lake) and the valley. The memorial commemorates the Great Famine of Ireland, when people had to walk in bad weather from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge (20 km), with many perishing at the lake. 

Doolough Valley Famine Memorial - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Chill at Old Head Beach, Louisburg 

Just a few minutes drive from Louisburg, you’ll find Old Head Beach. This long sandy beach offers a gorgeous view of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay. We just sat on a bench and soaked in the panorama and sunshine. 

For adventure and water activities, you can discover the kayak and/or snorkel trails either solo or with a guided tour. There’s even a Wild Atlantic Sauna on the Western side of the beach.

Facilities, including toilets, are available at the beach’s parking area.

Old Head Beach, Louisburg - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Sunset at Belmullet Tidal Pool 

Belmullet Tidal Pool is a perfect spot to enjoy the sunset and also to take a dip in the pool, which is just at the seaside. Our plan to take a dip at the Belmullet Tidal Pool failed… The tide was high, submerging the pool’s edge. Be smarter than us and check the tide forecast on Tideschart website

We could still savour the sunset hues with the stunning backdrop of Achill Island.

Belmullet Tidal Pool - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Stop at Dún na mBó (Doonamo Point)

Dún na mBó is a historic fort site and also offers a fantastic panorama. You can also look down to a blowhole, although the calm sea meant we missed the dramatic water show. 

Dún na mBó (Doonamo Point) - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland

More stops to include along your Wild Atlantic road trip

  • Downpatrick Head, the previously mentioned phenomenon
  • Ceann an Eanaigh
  • Silver Strand in South Mayo
  • Rinroe Beach
  • Spanish Armada Viewpoint
  • Achill Island (just continue reading…) 

4. Visit Achill Island

Achill Island awaits with stunning beaches, scenic coastlines and majestic mountains. We spent a whole day on this beautiful island.

Swim at Keel Beach and enjoy the Sabhna Saunas

Keel Beach is a super scenic long beach surrounded by hills. The sun decided to grace us with its presence, turning the landscape unbelievably beautiful, almost making us question whether we were still in Ireland. Keel Beach took the spotlight as our first stop because we had a date with Sabhna Saunas, offering a unique sauna-on-the-beach experience.

The sauna, resembling a barrel, provided a stunning view of the beach and the vast ocean. That’s what I call a “sauna with a view”! The cabin fits up to 6 people, and you can book shared and private sauna experiences. The cabin became our sanctuary for three cycles of sauna and sea dips. 

Booking online in advance is a must. Sabhna Saunas also have a sauna on Dugort Beach. 

Sabhna Saunas Achill Island - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Sabhna Saunas Achill Island - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Beach time at Keem Beach

A 10-minute drive brought us to Keem Beach, nestled on the other side of a hill. The temperature dropped noticeably, and clouds played hide-and-seek with the sun. 

Despite being the island’s most popular beach, Keem Beach didn’t quite match the turquoise water and sunbathers as depicted in the photos.

Keem Beach - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland

Hike to Moytoge Head Lookout Post and/or Cliffs of Croaghaun

Initially, our plan included a hike to the Moytoge Head Lookout Post. However, obscured by clouds and seemingly daunting in height, we opted for the sunnier side of the island.

Discover the Deserted village at Slievemore mountain 

Deserted Village is home to approximately 100 remaining stone houses, some dating back 5000 years. You can walk along the road and even between the houses. 

Currently, sheep rule the area, just like the whole County Mayo 😉 It had a mystical atmosphere and a fantastic view of Keel Bay. 

Deserted village at Slievemore mountain - The ultimate County Mayo escape - A 4-day Irish adventure itinerary | Aliz’s Wonderland
Deserted village at Slievemore mountain Achill Island - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Enjoy the view from Minaun Heights

Minaun Heights would offer a gorgeous view on a bright day, though we remained without a panorama but clouds.

There’s a 3 km hike to an even better viewpoint, but not hoping for a clearer view, we skipped it. On the descent, a fortunate gap in the clouds allowed us a partial panorama from the roadside. I wish you a better day 😉

Minaun Heights Achill Island - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Adore the panorama at White Cliffs of Ashleam

A brief but essential stop on the west coast treated us to a stunning panorama of the coastline and the ocean. Truly a sight not to be missed.

White Cliffs of Ashleam Achill Island - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

5. Learn about the bog and its importance (more interesting than it sounds…)

Learn about early farming in Céide Fields Visitors Centre

Céide Fields Visitors Centre is just a short drive away from Downpatrick Head. There’s an admission fee, which covers both an enlightening exhibition and a guided tour of the lands.

The exhibition transported us 5500 years into the past, revealing the life of early farmers through a 360° AV experience, games, facts, objects, videos and the excavation story. Surprisingly engaging, the highlight was reconstructing a stone wall, akin to a puzzle.

The hour-long guided tour led us through bogs and remnants of stone walls. Our guide injected humour into facts about walls, excavation, bog, turf, and toxic and non-toxic plants. He even told us that the shape of the visitor centre was inspired by the sea stacks visible from the site. Along the tour, we had a great view of the ocean, nearby mountains and Downpatrick Head. 

Céide Fields Visitors Centre - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Céide Fields Visitors Centre - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Céide Fields Visitors Centre - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Visit Ballycroy Visitor Centre and stroll in Wild Nephin National Park

There’s a free spacious parking area at the visitor centre, where a friendly receptionist welcomed us and shared insights about the area. He also mentioned the Mayo Dark Sky Festival in November, an event centred around astrology and combating light pollution. Parts of Mayo offer stellar views of the Milky Way.

Entrance to both the park and the visitor centre was free. The centre featured an interactive exhibition covering the national park, its flora, and fauna.

A 2 km loop starts at the visitor centre, which was an easy walk on a gravel path. A viewing point on the way allowed us to immerse ourselves in the panoramic beauty of Achill Island and the park’s hills.

The trail seamlessly brought us back to the visitor centre, which housed a coffee shop and restrooms on the top floor.

Ballycroy Visitor Centre - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Ballycroy Visitor Centre - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

Walk along Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail 

Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail is another easy 2 km seaside walk with breathtaking views. The parking area is conveniently located at the roadside, and a wooden path guides you to the water’s edge. The trail offers insights into the bog, flora, and fauna of the area.

While walking back along the seaside is an option, waterproof boots might be necessary, as the water level was high during our visit.

Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail - Top 5 things to do in Co. Mayo, Ireland - From Downpatrick Head to coastal hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland

It’s time to say goodbye to County Mayo. Whether you’ve been wandering around Downpatrick Head, cruising along the Wild Atlantic Way, or diving into the history of the boglands, I hope you’ve had a blast. Until next time! I hope to return to Mayo and discover more beauties along the Wild Atlantic Way. See you there?!

For more travel tips about Ireland and Europe, read the following posts:

Leave a comment below. 

Pin the photos for later to have them on Pinterest. Write a comment also on Pinterest and tell me your opinion.

County Mayo travel guide - Must-see attractions and breathtaking hikes | Aliz’s Wonderland
Co. Mayo bucket list - Top things to do along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland | Aliz’s Wonderland

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