In 2020, six County Mayo tourist attractions received the Service Excellence Business Award from Failte Ireland for putting the visitor experience at the heart of what they do.
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The recipients included the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life at Turlough Park located near Castlebar; the Ceide Fields in Ballycastle; the Michael Davitt Museum in Straide; the Foxford Woollen Mills in Foxford; the Belleek Visitor Centre at Belleek Castle in Ballina, and the Jackie Clarke Collection, also in Ballina.
All of them are located on the Route Millennia Mayo, a driving/touring route in North Mayo that takes visitors across 6,000 years of history and culture.
Excellent customer service is at the heart of the awards initiative.
Here is a closer look at each of the County Mayo tourist attractions.
National Museum of Ireland, Country Life
This museum, about 4.5 miles (7 km) outside Castlebar, is a treasure trove of artifacts from rural Ireland.
You can explore the kinds of crafts and skills that are no longer part of everyday Ireland, as well as the farming and fishing practices that were common years ago.
The museum also covers the ancient customs, festivals, and other celebrations that people in Ireland practiced in their homes. many years ago.
Below is a list of some of the current exhibitions at the museum. Visit the website for more information.
- Our Irish Chair – Tradition Revisited – see a collection of chairs made in Ireland, including the “Sligo Chair” and the “Tuam Chair” and learn about their place in the Irish crafting tradition;
- The Times: Rural Ireland: 1850 to 1950 (permanent exhibition) – how rural people responded to political, economic, and social changes;
- Cycling the Country (permanent exhibition) – exploring the evolution of the bicycle in rural Ireland;
- The Natural Environment (permanent exhibition) – learn about Ireland of 1850 when most people lived off the land;
- Working on Land and Water (permanent exhibition)– how Irish families eeked out a living from the land and sea;
- Hearth and Home (permanent exhibition) – exploring life in traditional Irish homes;
- Trades and Crafts (permanent exhibition) – see a variety of implements made in old Ireland by hand;
- Life in the Community (permanent exhibition) – find out about the yearly festivals that celebrated the passage of time;
- Romance and Reality (permanent exhibition) – life in rural Ireland was a struggle. This exhibition describes those struggles.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays and Mondays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Ceide Fields, Ballycastle
This archaeological site is the most extensive Neolithic site in Ireland and also contains the oldest field systems in the world, going back almost 6,000 years ago.
Be sure to visit the Heritage Centre, which includes several exhibits, including the one you simply can’t miss at the entrance.
It is part of a 4,000-year-old pine tree that was dug up from the nearby bogland.
Michael Davitt Museum, Straide
This award-winning museum is a must-see if you are interested in learning about 19th-century Ireland and in particular about land reform in Ireland.
It contains an extensive collection of historical artifacts related to the life of Michael Davitt, the notable land reformer.
It includes photos, documents related to Ireland’s Land Acts, letters, posters, postcards, Davitt’s rosary beads, and much more.
Open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., March through September, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., October through February. The entrance fee for adults is €5 and €3 for children.
Grab a free pass to the Ceide Fields Visitor Centre in Ballycastle as an added bonus.
The Foxford Woollen Mills
Today Foxford Woollen Mills is a successful company producing quality blankets, throws, scarves, clothing, and many other high-quality items.
A tour of the Foxford Woollen Mills will give you the history of the mill, including information on its founder, Sister Agnes Morrogh-Bernard of the Sisters of Charity.
You’ll learn how this insightful woman had the courage to create a business in the poverty-stricken town of Foxford during the mid-1800s.
Discover the techniques that have been passed down through the generations to make the Foxford Woollen Mills a world-renowned brand.
Book a tour by emailing [email protected]. The fee is €6 for adults, with €2 of each admission going toward the mill’s charity partner, the Western Care Association.
The fee for students and seniors is €5, with children under 16 admitted for free.
Belleek Visitor Centre, Belleek Castle
A tour of this beautiful old castle/hotel right in the heart of Ballina includes not only a history of the building, which was constructed between 1825 and 1831.
You’ll also learn about its previous owners, the Knox-Gore family who built this Gothic-style mansion.
Learn, also, about the man who restored the castle in the 1960s. Marshall Doran’s collection of Jurassic fossils, medieval weapons, and armor is the finest you’ll see in Ireland.
Visitors to the castle will also see Grace O’Malley’s four-poster bed (O’Malley is otherwise known as “The Pirate Queen”), as well as other curious artifacts.
Admission for adults is €10, children €7.50 and a family ticket will cost you €30. Book in advance by emailing [email protected].
Jackie Clarke Collection, Ballina
Get lost in the vast collection of memorabilia collected by the late Jackie Clarke, a native of Ballina.
There are more than 10,000 items in the collection, which includes rare books, proclamations, political cartoons, pamphlets, posters, personal items from the leaders of the 1916 Rising, and much more.
The collection is housed in the former Provincial Bank Building in the town’s center.
It was built in 1881 and designed by the Victorian architect Thomas Manly Deane, who also designed the National Museum in Dublin and other government buildings.
The building is open from Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Special tours can be booked in advance by emailing [email protected].
Admission is free but you are welcome to make a donation.