MAYO IS a sprawling, wild county with so much to do both on-and-off shore that it's hard to fit everything into one trip.
But whether you're visiting the Heather County for a day or a month, there are certain things you just have to do-- and to get a real taste for the beautiful county, these activities are a good place to start.
Of course, Mayo is chock-full of fantastic bars, restaurants and venues, but with things are the way they are currently, we're going to focus on some outdoor-friendly activities.
So, here are 12 brilliant things to do when exploring the beautiful county of Mayo.
Climb Croagh Patrick...
It's the most famous mountain in Ireland, so of course this is first on the list of things to do when you visit Mayo. An estimated 100,000 people a year climb to the top of this mountain, whether as a pilgrimage or with friends and family, and it's a must when you're visiting Mayo for a few days.
... and take in that breathtaking view
Climbing Croagh Patrick is great, but tiring-- but the adrenaline rush of reaching the top and seeing the county sprawled out below you in all its glory is something else entirely. The unique ocean bay, Clew Bay, looks almost like something from another planet, and you'll be able to see the town of Westport as well as far-off mountain ranges.
(...unless you've climbed it on a day like this)
Okay. It happens. Ireland's weather is famously unreliable, and plenty of people have climbed Croagh Patrick only to find it foggy and misty by the time they reach the peak, and the famous view is completely obscured. Best to check ahead!
Take the ferry to the famous islands off the coast of Mayo
There are literally hundreds of little islands in County Mayo, most of them making up the spectacular Clew Bay, but Achill Island is the must-see on your trip. The villages are nestled among rocky, jutting mountains, best seen with Doogort village with Slievemore in the background-- taking 'picturesque village' to another level. Inishturk is another gorgeous little island with spectacular scenery, home to some of the most breathtaking sights in Ireland.
Visit one of the world's greatest beaches
Keem Bay on Achill Island is officially one of the best beaches, not just in Ireland, but in the entire world. This isolated strand on Achill Island was once voted one of the best beaches on the planet, beating the likes of beaches in Polynesia and Greece, and is a favourite for people in Ireland and beyond.
See the shrine where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared
Arguably the most famous apparition in Irish history, 140 years ago in the small Mayo village of Knock, a village girl named Mary Beirne witnessed three life-sized figures standing by the gable of the church grounds.
She spread the word, and members of the village came to stand and kneel in the lashing rain before the figures, believed to be Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist. At the other side of the grounds was Saint John the Baptist, a chorus of angels and a cross and a lamb—the image of Jesus.
For hours the villagers prayed by the apparition, and half a mile away, a farmer swore he saw a large golden light hovering around the church.
Knock Shrine has been visited by the Pope, and has been honoured with a Special Status acknowledging its importance to the those of the Catholic faith.
If you're a fan of The Quiet Man...
The village of Cong in County Mayo boasts mountainous terrain, rolling green fields and peaceful, still lakes-- but it's best known as being the backdrop to the famous Irish film The Quiet Man. The village is home to the Quiet Man Museum, and fans can take a walking tour to explore all the film's famous locations.
Explore the grounds of Westport House...
Known as 'the jewel in the crown of Mayo', Westport House is a much-loved heritage attraction as beautiful as any you'd find across Ireland and the rest of the world. The building and 400-acre grounds are steeped in rich history and ready to be explored-- and there's even a Pirate Adventure Park for when you're looking for a bit more excitement.
...and learn all about Ireland's Pirate Queen, Gráinne Mhaol
Westport House was once the home of Grainne Mhaol, sometimes anglicised as Grace O'Malley, but best known as the Pirate Queen of Connaught. In her prime, O'Malley commanded 3 galleys, 20 ships and over 200 men against her perpetual nemesis – the English – and even met with Elizabeth I before living to the ripe old age of 73. Westport House is chock-full of information about Ireland's fearless Pirate Queen.
Take a cycle on the famous Great Western Greenway
Ireland's longest off-road walking and cycling track, the Great Western Greenway takes you along some of the west of Ireland's most spectacular locations, including dramatic mountains, Achill Island and the Clew Bay-- it's 42km long and is an absolute must for those who enjoy the outdoors.
Explore Joe Biden's Irish roots with a trip to his ancestral home
Joe Biden is vocal about his love for Ireland and his pride in his Irish ancestors-- and they're rightly proud of him, too. The town of Ballina in County Mayo was home to Biden's great-great grandfather, Patrick Blewitt.
The remaining Mayo Blewitts and the entire town of Ballina celebrated when Biden was elected president of the United States last year, and we're certain that when things return to normal, there'll be bigger parties-- and maybe a statue or station dedicated to him, as happened with Barack Obama!
Explore your own Irish ancestry with a trip to the Céide Fields
One of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland, the Céide Fields has allowed us to explore the Irish people of the past. The most extensive Neolithic site in Ireland, the 5,500 year-old site holds the secrets to our past, and is home to the oldest stone walled fields in the world. The visitor's centre is chock-full of extensive knowledge and information, and you'll leave knowing much more about your own history.