This is my question.
After spending a day in North Mayo and then driving into County Sligo a day later, I’m puzzled why we Americans don’t come to this part of Ireland.
It’s gorgeous. It’s stunning.
There are soaring mountains, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, historical sites, lakes, seaside towns and pleasant small cities.
So I feel that we…
As Americans, are not being fair to ourselves or to the Irish folks who inhabit these areas.
First of all, we’re completely missing out on some pretty spectacular places.
Secondly, we are totally dissing the people of the area who are proud of their homes. They would love to see more Americans in these parts. They’re just as perplexed as to why we don’t visit these areas as I am.
I’d love to change this.
As I drove north
From Clifden in County Galway (the Connemara area) I made my way into the southern part of County Mayo. Driving past Westport I ventured into new territory. I had only ever gone as far north as Westport, with the exception of a day trip out to Achill Island which is northwest of Westport.
I traveled farther north into Mayo, going through Ballycroy National Park, a starkly beautiful landscape with mountains, bogs and lakes.
Then I hit the northwest Mayo coast and…
My jaw dropped!
There before me was the turbulent Atlantic Ocean and cliffs with green patches filled with grazing sheep. The wind blew in from the north, cold and fierce.
But that coastline? Wow! It really took my breath away.
The R314, part of the Wild Atlantic Way, twisted and curved it’s way high above the sea.
It is dramatic.
It is stunning.
And you really should see it.
There are places like Céide Fields, a prehistoric site with fabulous views; and Downpatrick Head, a lone stack of rock in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast. There are beaches like Lacken Strand and bigger towns such as Ballina.
Then there’s County Sligo.
With resort towns like Enniscrone with its wonderful beaches and its golf course and quieter towns like Easky and Mullaghmore along its coast, there’s something for every taste.
Add in megalithic sites like Carrowmore and Carrykeel and Creevykeel and the WB Yeats history and the mountains and the sea…well, you get the idea.
Now admittedly, it does take a bit more effort to get here. Although I found many of the main roads to be just fine.
To get where I’m staying at Ardtarmon House in County Sligo … that’s another story. It’s definitely off the beaten path as it’s down small rural roads with vague signage. But I find that it’s worth it. You just have to be an explorer.
Because once you get here, you realize how happy you are to be somewhere a little tucked away. To be somewhere that not every other tourist is. You truly feel like you’ve discovered something really special.
I know I feel that I have uncovered something truly exceptional in these past few days.
I’ve discovered an area of Ireland that I would encourage those of you who are a little adventurous to come see. To come and explore and investigate.
I’ll be back. I’m sure of it.
This part of Ireland is much more real and authentic and not as touched by mass tourism as places like Killarney or the Ring of Kerry or the Cliffs of Moher.
And, in my opinion, it’s even more beautiful.
So what are you waiting for?
Isn’t it time to put that explorer’s hat on and discover some place a little different?
You won’t be sorry!