We took a trip along the North Mayo coastline to visit Downpatrick Head and the Ceide Fields. While not as well known as the Cliffs of Moher, this area is equally as impressive and scenic.
Our first stop was Killala, a quaint seaside village. Killala was the scene of the last major engagement in the 1798 rebellion. The Irish rebels, helped by the French, held onto Killala for 32 days. On the 33rd day, after 20 minutes of fierce fighting 600 Irish troops were killed and the rebellion was effectively finished.
In the centre of the village, there is a round tower, an old deanery and a Church of Ireland Cathedral. This part of the village has an old world feel to it.
As I was browsing through the Wild Atlantic Way passport, I noticed that Downpatrick Head was featured and after a quick google realised that it was along the route to the Ceide Fields.
A nice bit of luck especially given it was the highlight of our trip that day.
Dun Briste is a 50-metre stack that sits 80 metres off Downpatrick Head.
St. Patrick founded a church at Downpatrick Head and legend has it that Dun Briste was caused by the man himself. He was so angered by a local Chieftain who wouldn’t convert to Christianity he struck the ground with his crozier causing a piece of the land to break away from the mainland.
St.Patrick also drove all the snakes out of Ireland – is there anything this guy couldn’t do?!!
A more logical explanation for Dun Briste is that it was caused by a storm in the 14th century with the inhabitants saved by ropes from the mainland.
Other points of interest here include a blowhole where rebels in the 1798 Rebellion hid out as they were being pursued by soldiers, but unfortunately, a high tide swept the rebels away.
A Lookout Post used during World War II and also the large Eire 64 sign from 1942-43 which was used to inform pilots they were flying over Irish territory.
Downpatrick Head is simply stunning and gives the Cliffs of Moher a good run for its money. It’s not flooded with tourists and parking is free.
We next drove the short but very scenic journey to Ceide Fields.
Ceide Fields is a Neolithic site and contains the most extensive field systems in the world. It’s well worth doing the tour as it really helps to explain the significance of the site.
The visitor centre has a futuristic pyramid shape design which blends in well with the landscape.
Across the road from the visitor centre is a viewing point where you can view some of the spectacular Mayo coastline and cliffs and also see as far as Downpatrick Head.
We also drove the Mullet peninsula and visited several of the many sandy beaches along this scenic coastline. We stopped at Blacksod Harbour with its picturesque lighthouse which was built in 1864 of local granite blocks. It has an unusual square design and a connection to world events.
In June 1944, under an agreement with Britain, Ireland although neutral during World War II, continued to send weather reports. The local lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney sent the daily forecast which predicted stormy weather the following day. Unbeknownst to Ted, his report was used by General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill to delay the D-Day landing until the storm had passed.
Mayo is a large county and if you are planning a visit it’s worth staying a few days as there are lots of things to do and see, check out this blog post on west Mayo.
Background Sources: OPW sites - http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/ Buildings of Ireland - http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/ Failte Ireland http://www.failteireland.ie/ WAW - https://www.wildatlanticway.com