Mayo is the third largest county in Ireland and its landscape varies from the beautiful beaches, some of which rank among the best in the country, to the Nephinbeg Mountains, that are away from the coast and offer solitude and excellent views.
The coastline provides a wonderful succession of views - cliffs, sandy beaches, headlands and islands, from Killary Harbour to Kilala Bay. From here, the tourist may go on to enjoy the natural beauty of the green countryside, starting with the wild valley that contains the "black lake" of "Doo Lough".
Mayo has numerous lakes, that offer fishing opportunities - Lough Brohly, Cartron, Karrowkerribly, to name just a few, or watersports facilities - Loughs Conn and Mask, Carrowmore Lough.
The hills named "The Twelve Pins" lie in the south, while in the north there's the island-studded Clew Bay. Achill Island, the largest island off the Irish Coast, is a favourite destination for those who know about it. Unspoiled holiday resorts and the variety of outdoor activities are among the attractions of Mayo, but this county has certain features that distinguish it from among its neighbours: the places of pilgrimage - Knock and Croagh Patrick, as well as Céide Fields, a massive stone age field system found under more than 6 feet of bog.
Knock had been a simple parish in the West of Ireland until a vision of Virgin Mary appeared on the wall of the parish church and made it famous as a holy shrine of the Madonna. The village now houses a basilica and worship of the Virgin is carried out there every day. Masses of pilgrims come here to pray and a large number of facilities for the visitor have developed in the area.
Croagh Patrick, in the east of the county, is a conical mountain from which Saint Patrick is said to have banished snakes from the island. A pilgrimage takes place here every year, in the last Sunday of July, when as many as 60,000 pilgrims climb its 2,510 feet height for a mass. Most start out from Westport, but "Tóchar Phádraig"("Patrick's Way") starts from Ballintubber Abbey. As for Céide Fields, it proves to be the largest intact Stone Age settlement anywhere in the world, and should be of great interest not only to archaeologists. It is more than 5,000 years old, dating from a time when a community of farmers lived in the area and shows how organized our ancestors were.
Other places of interest for the archaeologist can be found in Cong - Killimor Megalithic Tomb, Dringeenoughter Standing Stone and Ballynacgibbon Cairn are among them, as well as in Achill - Kildownet Castle, for example.
Ballina, built on the river Moy, is one of the towns definitely worth visiting in Mayo, next to which the Dolmen of the Four Maols, dating from the Bronze Age, can be found.
There are a lot of heritage centres to visit (Croagh Patrick Information Centre, Clew Bay Heritage Centre, Ballintubber Abbey), as well as, for the art lover, galleries and art centres (The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar; the Art Studio, The Waterfront Gallery, McLoughlin's Studios, Carmel Quinn's Hillside Art Gallery, in Westport). And for those who love festivals, October is the month in which most Mayo festivals are held.