I know what you’re thinking – this lot can’t be up to much if she’s lumping them together!
These Mayo blogs have covered half-day activities (climbing Croagh Patrick / Greenway cycling) or full day touring (Achill / Mullet Peninsula / Céide Coast / etc.). This final group include sights, sites and walks that you will probably encounter along the road. You could be en route to your hotel or heading home, following a signpost or curious about a cluster of parked cars.
Isn’t that the best thing about road trips – the unexpected deviation……
Mulranny Causeway and Machair
Mulranny, Mallaranny, Mulrany, Malaranny, Mullaranny, Mullranny.
The only other time I’ve come across so many variations in a spelling is with my mother’s name – Brigid!
Whatever the version, they all agree on the origins – An Mhala Raithní = the hill-brow of the ferns.
This is the Mulranny Causeway – built across Trawoughter Bay in 1889 to link Mulranny village and hotel with the beach and pier.
The causeway is accessed by ALL locals!!
This is a STORM BEACH – created – yes – during storms! Pebbles and boulders are hurled way up onto the shore and stay put when the storm subsides, out of reach of the ordinary waves. (No – don’t adjust your screen!!! Photos taken on different days!!).
There are wonderful views across Clew Bay to mountains beyond.
Behind the beach, dunes – composed of sand that has been formed over the millennia by shell, eroded rock and sediment – are held together by grasses and other plants.
Behind the dunes is the flat Machair plain – basically dunes that have eroded down to a level surface covered in vegetation.
And this is the Machair at low tide – I think it’s stunning!!!!
The quiet, sheltered conditions here provide a haven for wildlife. Apart from a variety of grasses and rushes, you’ll find orchids, sea lavender and carpets of the Sea Pink Flower. (The high level of grazing on the Machair is hugely significant in the maintenance of the marsh – it keeps the plants relatively small and prevents many of them from flowering). Birdwatchers will love it here – species include curlew, oyster catcher, sand piper, tern and many more. This is a favourite wintering ground for Brent Geese.
This is a currach – a traditional Irish boat. Animal skins were stretched over a wooden frame (of course canvas is more usual nowadays!)
From the hotel, the walk brings you over the causeway, past the Machair and up the side of the bay into woodland.
Wild Nephin National Park
The park includes much of the Nephin Beg Range and is a vast uninhabited area of blanket bog and mountainous terrain. With walks ranging from 1km to 40kms, there’s something to suit everyone here.
The National Park Visitor Centre has an interactive exhibition on habitats, local culture and history of the park. The Tea Room serves soup, sandwiches and light lunches.
At the Centre, a short nature trail with interpretation panels and viewing points drives home the bleakness of the landscape…..
But I preferred the Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail, about 8kms from the Centre. The 2km circular trail follows the boardwalk across bogland and back along the shore.
Titanic Memorial Park
Emigration has always featured strongly in the west of Ireland. In April 1912, 11 women and 3 men from the parish of Addergoole left home for hopefully a better life in America. They were among 2,435 passengers setting sail from Queenstown, Cork.
Their ship was the RMS Titanic.
Within days, 11 of the group had died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, making this townland the single most tragic place associated with the fatal voyage.
The sculptures in the memorial park include six plaques, four life-size figures and a 5 metre bronze representation of the bow of the ship.
Foxford Woollen Mills
The consequences of The Great Famine of 1845-1852 were to be endured long after the event itself and the devastation was probably most deeply felt in rural Mayo. Poverty, desolation and widespread emigration lingered on for generations.
In 1892, Sr. Agnes – a Sister of Charity who dedicated her life to the improving living conditions of those in her locality – sought advice from a Co. Tyrone mill owner (a Protestant no less!!!!) and, with borrowed money, started up a mill in the town of Foxford. The nearby River Moy was tapped for power and local weaving skills were put to use. At first, wool came from local sheep but it was found to be too rough and so wool from specially reared sheep was eventually imported from Italy, France, the UK and Australia.
(Agnes didn’t stop there – over the years, houses were built for mill employees. She built a school and a Convent Chapel. She even set up the Brass and Reed Band which is still going strong today!)
The mill flourished and the brand grew – the Foxford rug and the Foxford blanket became known worldwide. At its height, 220 people were employed.
But by the 1980’s the business was facing too many challenges – the market had changed, modernisation was needed and old buildings were becoming too expensive to maintain. In 1987, the receiver moved in and, in a massive blow for the town, jobs that had been in families for generations were lost.
Joe Queenan was a local accountant who worked for the receiver. He knew that the quality of the product and the brand’s reputation was never disputed. He set about rebuilding the business which once again is booming.
In 1992, the award-winning Foxford Woollen Mills Visitor Centre opened. As well as the Mill Shop and Restaurant, you can enjoy The Historical Woollen Mill Tour, stepping back in time to 1890’s Foxford.
While here, have a wander and check out Foxford Wall Art Project. Several murals, inspired by local heritage and folklore, are displayed in highly visible parts of town.
The area is renowned for its salmon fishing so a mural of a salmon is to be expected! This is the Salmon of Knowledge, the legend having been transferred from the Boyne River in the east of the country over here to the Moy. The background symbols represent all the different kinds of knowledge available to us – cultural, scientific, emotional, etc… The wall is part of what was once a bookshop, its logo being – yes – the Salmon of Knowledge..
The Salmon of Knowledge
When Fionn mac Cumhaill was a young boy he was sent to live with a very wise man named Finegas, a poet who lived on the banks of the River Boyne.
In the River Boyne lived the Salmon of Knowledge. The first person to eat its flesh would gain all the knowledge in the world.
Finegas spent seven long years fishing for this salmon. He finally caught the fish and gave it to Fionn, telling him to cook it but on no account to eat any of it. Fionn set about cooking the salmon, but, as he turned it over, he burnt his thumb on a drop of hot cooking fish fat. Without thinking, he sucked on his burned finger to ease the pain. When the meal was ready, Finegas knew immediately that something had changed. He asked Fionn if he had eaten any of the salmon. Answering no, the boy explained what had happened. Finegas, realising that Fionn had received the wisdom of the salmon, gave him the rest of the fish to eat. When Fionn was finished he didn’t feel any wiser than before. Finegas told him ‘If it was your thumb you first burnt, then place it in your mouth.’ Fionn put his thumb in his mouth and immediately all the knowledge of the world rushed into his head. Throughout the rest of his life, he could draw upon this knowledge merely by biting his thumb. Fionn grew up to become the leader of the Fianna, the greatest band of warriors that Ireland has ever known.
The Irish goat represents Foxford’s annual Goat Fair Day, which takes place in May each year.
A snipe sits on one of its horns. The snipe is known as ‘goat of the sky’, so called because it is said to have stolen the goat’s voice to defend its nest. During courtship and display flights over their nesting territory, it makes an eerie goat-like bleating sound by vibrating its tail feathers..
Lough Conn is another of the great fishing lakes in this part of the country. There is a lovely looped drive – about 100kms – around the lake offering wonderful scenery and photo opportunities.
Loughs Conn and Cullin lie side by side, separated by just a small rocky ridge.
Fionn MacCumhaill (yes- he of the Salmon of Knowledge) was out chasing a boar with his two hounds Conn and Cullin. As the boar ran from them, water poured from his feet. Conn dashed on ahead of Cullin and chased the boar for many days but eventually a lake was formed from all the accumulating water and Conn drowned while the boar escaped. Cullin kept up the chase until he too met the same fate in another newly formed lake. And that is how Lough Conn and Lough Cullin were formed!
On 21st August, 1879 – a very wet evening – fifteen villagers witnessed an apparition on the gable wall of the parish church.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, described as beautiful, stood a few feet above the ground. She was dressed in white robes and was barefoot. Her hands and eyes were turned towards heaven in prayer. On her right was St. Joseph, bending from the shoulders towards Mary. He appeared older, his beard and hair were grey and he was also barefoot. To her left stood John the Evangelist, wearing a bishop’s mitre. He held an open book in his left hand and appeared to be preaching but no voice was heard. To his left stood a plain altar with a Lamb on it. Behind the Lamb was a Cross.
The apparitions did not move in any way. The witnesses watched and prayed for over 2 hours and though they were wet through, no rain fell on the apparition or on the gable.
An ecclesiastical Commission of Inquiry took depositions from the witnesses. Among their considerations were the possibility of the apparition emanating from natural causes and the likelihood of fraud. No solution from natural causes could be offered and there was never any suggestion of a scam. The commission’s final verdict was that the testimony of all the witnesses taken as a whole was trustworthy and satisfactory. (A second Commission of Inquiry, in 1936, portrayed the original reports in a positive light).
Meanwhile, reports of ‘strange occurrences in a small Irish village’ featured almost immediately in the international media. The entire apparition wall was torn apart by pilgrims chipping out bits of cement, mortar, and stones for souvenirs and cures!
Throughout the 20th century, Knock’s popularity steadily increased, making it one of Europe’s major Catholic Marian Shrines alongside Lourdes and Fatima. It is visited by 1.5 million pilgrims annually.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II came to Knock to commemorate the centenary of the apparition at a mass attended by an estimated 450,000 people. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in 1993 while Pope Francis was a more recent visitor, in 2018.
The Apparition Chapel houses the original gable wall of the parish church.
Original stones from the Apparition gable
Something to mull over…..
Marian apparitions usually included a message or prophesy. Here at Knock, the Virgin Mary was silent the entire time.
One possible suggestion reflects the cultural turmoil of the era. English was now the language of education and schools were instrumental in the replacement and decline of Irish. The theory goes that this linguistic quandary explains the silence of the visions – the oldest witness, 74 year old Bridget Trench, had no English, while the youngest, five-year-old John Curry, was being educated with no Irish.
….and something else….
The first miracle was that of Delia Gordon, a 12-year-old girl who was deaf and suffered horrific pain. Her parents took her to the church where her mother picked a piece of cement from the gable wall, blessed it and put it on her daughter’s ear. After a searing shot of pain, the pain disappeared and she was no longer deaf.
But it was not until 2019 (yes! 3 years ago!) that the Catholic Church in Ireland for the first time recognized a miracle attached to the Knock Shrine.
In 1989, Marion Clarke was brought to Knock on a stretcher. She had been suffering for seventeen years with MS and was bedridden, incontinent, blind in one eye, partially sighted in the other, and her speech was affected.
During Mass she felt a “whispery breeze” pass over her and when Mass was over she rose from the stretcher, cured of all her ailments.
It took 30 years for the Church to acknowledge that her healing defied medical explanation.
Sr Agnes put Foxford on the map through her response to the region’s poverty and desperation. Roll on to the 1980’s and things are bad again – there is widespread economic stagnation and emigration is on the rise.
Mayo needs another hero!!!
Monsignor James Horan was parish priest of Knock from 1967, until his death in 1986. Dynamic to say the least, he was a man who could ‘get things done’ – a new basilica to accommodate 10,000 people was built in 1976 and he was instrumental in organising the visit of Pope John Paul II to Knock in 1979.
And then he had this extraordinary vision – an international airport at Knock! Mad!
Building an airport anywhere in the country at that time was unthinkable – but on top of a mist-shrouded mountain in Mayo – a joke!
To Horan it all made sense – an international airport would surely act as a catalyst for industrial and tourism development. He launched a persistent campaign and, despite much public ridicule, opposition and bureaucratic headache, he stuck with it until the project was achieved. Knock got a multi-million pound airport!
The first plane, Aer Lingus flight 4962, touched down in October 1985. In 1986, the year of its official opening, Knock catered for 9,200 passengers.
In 2016, on its 30th anniversary, annual numbers hit 750,000 – among them the 10 millionth passenger!
Today, Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) operates as an independent airport and profits are reinvested in the airport and the surrounding region. It links the west of Ireland with over 20 destinations in Ireland, Britain and mainland Europe. Contrary to Horan’s expectations, and reflecting a more secular society, it is commuters and ordinary tourists, rather than religious pilgrims, who are the mainstay of the airport.
So there you have it – I’m finished with the county for now but I hope I did enough to tempt you to Mayo sometime!
Will I go back ? yes – I have unfinished business – I have to get to the top of Croagh Patrick, I want to visit Clare Island and I might follow up on that Clew Bay Archaeological Trail. So who knows – maybe later in 2022……
Before you go…..
Have a look at the rest in this Mayo series…
#3 TÍR SÁILE