- 1 Castlebar (Caisleán an Bharraigh) is the county town and market centre of Mayo.
- 2 Westport (Cathair na Mart) is the main base for visiting Clew Bay and the south of Mayo. Nearby is the pilgrimage mountain of Croagh Patrick.
- 3 Newport (Baile Uí Fhiacháin) is a very small village, yet the largest on the county's northwest coast.
- 4 Ballina (Béal an Átha) is the main town with accommodation in the north of Mayo.
- 5 Killala (Cill Ala), where the French invaded in 1798, is near several ruined abbeys.
- 6 Knock (Cnoc Mhuire) has a famous Marian Shrine and Ireland West Airport.
- 7 Cong (Conga) is an attractive little village with a ruined abbey, best known as the location for the 1952 film The Quiet Man.
- 8 Leenane (An Líonán) is a village on the south shore of Killary fjord, so it's just across the boundary into County Galway. But it's a good base for attractions in southwest Mayo, such as Doo Lough.
- 1 Achill Island is reached by road. It has a haunting deserted village.
- 2 Clare Island at the entrance to Clew Bay was the abode of "pirate queen" Gráinne O'Malley: her tower house still stands. The island is reached by ferry from Roonagh near Louisburgh.
- 3 Inishturk is inhabited and is also reached by ferry from Roonagh.
- 4 Mullet (or Erris) Peninsula is some 33 km long off the northwest coast, with two arms. At its south tip is Blacksod Lighthouse; its northern arm creates Broadhaven Bay. Eagle Island near its north tip has another much-battered lighthouse, and its twin has long succumbed to the Atlantic storms.
In legend, six races of gods conquered Ireland before the coming of mortal beings. When the fourth of these, the Fir Bolg, were overthrown, they were awarded Connacht by way of a peace token. Or perhaps it was a booby prize or "wooden spoon": so it might appear to anyone fated to farm these bleak lands with merely mortal strength. Mayo has been populated since the Stone Ages - they certainly didn't lack stones, but prehistoric forest clearance made a poor soil worse, until bog engulfed the land as at Céide Fields. The county boundaries were laid down in 1585: Mhaigh Eo (meaning Plain of Yew Trees) was at that time a significant abbey settlement, but the abbey disappeared long ago and Mayo village is a tiny place, never the county seat. County Mayo had a hand-to-mouth existence even in the good years and was hard hit by the famines. Mary Robinson, 7th President of Ireland and born in Ballina, described Mayo's western hills as "on the periphery of the periphery".
So the reason to come is for the wildness and quiet, in one of Ireland's most sparsely populated regions. That was why the French chose Killala for their invasion of 1798, catching the British unawares; that was why Hollywood picked Cong as the location for filming The Quiet Man. Why, even the airport at Knock is a strangely quiet place.
- 1 Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC IATA) is 30 km east of Castlebar and 20 km north of Knock village. It has flights mostly by Ryanair from London Stansted, Luton and other UK cities, and a few European destinations.
- Since you need a car to get around, you might prefer to fly into Dublin and drive west.
Trains from Dublin Heuston run 3 or 4 times a day to Westport, taking 3 hr 30 min via Portarlington, Tullamore, Clara, Athlone, Roscommon, Castlerea, Ballyhaunis, Claremorris (for Knock), Manulla Junction and Castlebar. Some services involve changing at Athlone.
A branch line runs to Ballina from Manulla Junction, connecting with the westbound trains from Dublin and the eastbound trains from Westport and Castlebar.
There is no direct bus from Dublin to Castlebar, Westport or Knock. The only direct service is Expressway 22 to Ballina, taking 5 hours from Dublin Busáras via Dublin Airport, Lucan, Maynooth, Mullingar, Longford, Tulsk, Charlestown and Foxford.
Bus Feda 964 runs from Crolly in Donegal to Letterkenny, Donegal Town, Sligo, Tubbercurry, Charlestown, Knock village, Claremorris, Tuam and Galway.
From Dublin take M4 to N4 via Mullingar and Longford, then N5 towards Castlebar and Westport.
From Athlone take N60 / 61 via Roscommon, Castlerea, Ballyhaunis (turnoff for Knock) and Claremorris to Castlebar.
From Galway take N84 north via Headford (turnoff for Cong) and Ballinrobe to Castlebar.
Many places of interest are out in the country and you need a car, as much for shelter from the lashing rain as for transport. However a few places are along a transport route. The train will get you between Westport, Castlebar and Ballina. There are also buses, though infrequent, from Castlebar to Ballina,to Westport and to the Mullet Peninsula.
Bus 450 follows the coast, from Dooagh near the west tip of Achill Island, via Achill Sound to the mainland, then Mulrany, Newport and Westport, then onward to Murrisk (for ascent of Croagh Patrick) and Louisburgh. It doesn't continue to Roonagh ferry pier.
For Clare Island and Inishturk, take the ferry from Roonagh near Louisburgh.
- Westport House is a fine Georgian mansion overlooking Clew Bay.
- Ballycroy & West Nephin National Park is a wilderness of blanket bog and mountain heathland. Access is from N59 north of Mulranny.
- Burrishoole Abbey is 10 km west of Newport.
- Ballintubber Abbey is 10 km south of Castlebar.
- Céide Fields, on the coast 25 km northwest of Ballina, are fields and a settlement dating to 3500 BC.
- Clew Bay beyond Westport is very scenic. It's dotted by island drumlins.
- Knock Shrine is in Knock village.
- Mullet Peninsula: see "Other destinations" above.
- The Museum of Country Life is 5 km east of Castlebar.
- Dark skies: the county is thinly populated and relatively free of light pollution. Ballycroy / West Nephin is one suggested spot but anywhere away from town will do.
- Go to the races at Ballinrobe Racecourse, 12 km north of Cong and 25 km south of Castlebar.
- Climb Croagh Patrick, a mountain pilgrimage site 10 km west of Westport, and Nephin (806 m) north of Castlebar towards Crossmolina.
- Great Western Greenway is a cycling and walking route, 42 km from Westport to Newport, Mulranny and Achill Island. Multiple access points.
- The Western Way is a long distance hiking trail. It starts in Oughterard in County Galway, enters Mayo at Leenane, then heads north through Drummin, Westport, Newport, Letterkeen, Bellacorrick, Sheskin, Ballycastle, Killala and Ballina, to end at Ballyconnellan on the boundary with County Sligo.
- Gaelic games: Mayo GAA the county team play in Castlebar. There are some 50 club teams across the county, mostly playing Gaelic football; hurling is only a minor sport in Mayo.
- The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal itinerary from Donegal all the way to Kinsale near Cork. The route through Mayo is self-evident, just follow the coast road. Southbound that's from Enniscrone in County Sligo to Ballina, Killala, Mullet Peninsula, Achill Island, Newport, Westport and Leenane in County Galway.
- Events: see Castlebar, Westport and Ballina listings.
- Mayo? No, mayonnaise takes its name from Mahon in Menorca, where it was probably introduced from mainland Spain.
- Castlebar has the best selection of cheap and cheerful places.
- Ballina has more in the way of fine dining, such as Dillons or Crocketts Quay.
- Mulhern's Restaurant within Dolphin Hotel in Crossmolina, and Newport House in Newport, are the standouts.
- McHale's in Castlebar is the only pub that still serves Guinness by the meejum, an obscure measure short of a pint.
- Castlebar also aspires to be the country's gin capital.
- Mayo wasn't traditionally a brewing or distilling county, as the land was poor for barley, but it does have prodigious amounts of water. That makes it suitable for micro production, as ingredients are easily trucked in.
- Breweries: Mescan Brewery is on the flanks of Croagh Patrick west of Westport, tours available.
- Distilleries: Lough Mask Distillery produces whiskey, gin and vodka and offers tours. It's on the west shore of Lough Mask, the nearest town is Cong.
- Connacht Whiskey Company in Ballina produces a range of whiskey plus vodka, gin and poitin. No tours.
- Irish American Whiskey on Achill Island produces malt whiskey and offers tours.
- Sligo was home to poet WB Yeats, who was inspired by its brooding limestone scarps, prehistoric monuments and lakeland scenery.
- Galway is a lively historic town.
- Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon to the east are in the lush lowlands, a complete contrast to the wilds of Mayo.