Knock is a village in County Mayo in the west of Ireland which has a Marian pilgrimage shrine and is near the regional airport. In Irish Cnoc means "hill", a very common placename, so this one is Cnoc Mhuire, "Hill of the Virgin Mary". In 2016 it had a population of 972 but it's thronged by pilgrims.
There isn't a TIC but St Johns Rest Centre next to the Basilica is a reception and information point.
Thursday 21 Aug 1879 was a very wet evening in Mayo. About 8 pm it was still daylight as Mary Bryne, aged 29, walked home with Mary McLoughlin, the priest's housekeeper. She saw three figures on the south gable wall of the church, ran home to tell her parents, and soon a group of some 15-20 villagers gathered. The three figures were life-sized, wearing white robes and floating a couple of feet from the ground: they appeared to be the Virgin Mary, with St Joseph on her right and St John the Evangelist on her left. St John appeared to be preaching from a book, but all were silent. Behind them and left was a plain altar with cross and a lamb, adorned with angels. The figures did not move or flicker, and the ground beneath them remained dry, as the villagers continued to watch in the rain for a couple of hours as dusk fell. The parish priest was called to come and see but wasn't having any of it. When the vision faded, the villagers almost tore the wall to pieces for relics and souvenirs.
In October the Archbishop of Tuam set up an inquiry, which gathered witness statements over the new few months with all due deliberation; there was no oral examination of witnesses. The problems with that as a body of evidence are obvious, but the inquiry concluded that the witnesses were credible, and that there was no natural explanation. The story broke in the international media, and pilgrims began flocking, assisted by the new railways. The village had hit the jackpot.
The original documents somehow disappeared so a second inquiry in 1936 interviewed the surviving witnesses, who stuck to their story. By now Knock had become a major Marian shrine, on a par with Lourdes, with many claimed cures or other wonderful interventions. In 1967 James Horan became the parish priest; he built a new church for the 1979 centenary of the vision, which drew a visit by Pope John Paul II, and on the back of that launched a campaign for Knock to have its own airport. Work began in 1981 but funding fell short, and fund-raising took its toll on Horan's health. He died in 1986 while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and his body was flown back to his newly-opened airport.
1 Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC IATA). The main operator is Ryanair, with year-round flights to London Stansted, Luton, Bristol, East Midlands and Liverpool, and seasonal flights to Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca. The airport has a small single terminal with an airside upstairs eating area and 3 departure gates; all departing passengers aged 12 or more must pay a €10 "development fee". There's car hire from Budget, Avis, Europcar and Hertz. The airport is 6 km south of Charlestown and 20 km north of Knock village. Creating it was the personal crusade of Monsignor James Horan (1911-86), much mocked for his plans for a site so foggy, boggy and soggy; the story was made into a musical On a Wing and a Prayer.
Ballyhaunis and Claremorris are both 11 km from Knock village and on bus routes; Claremorris has more facilities.
Bus Feda 964 runs from Crolly in Donegal to Letterkenny, Donegal Town, Sligo, Tubbercurry, Charlestown, Knock village, Claremorris, Tuam and Galway. It runs twice M-Th and Sa, with three on Friday and Sunday.
Knock Shrine is designed for pilgrims with limited mobility, so you'll have no trouble visiting on foot.
But there's not much else to see or do within 20-30 km, so you need a car to reach the many attractions further afield.
- 1 Knock Shrine or "The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock" is the pilgrimage complex, open daily 08:00-21:30, free. Multiple access points but from the west along Main St, you come immediately to the old church where the vision was seen. This is now the Apparition Chapel and the Parish Church. Facing is the big boxy Basilica of 1979, floodlit at night. Behind this are the graves of Monsignor Horan and other notables, while on its north side is St John's Rest Centre. This is a general meeting area, cafe and reception point for disabled visitors, and the first aid post for frail pilgrims, many of who have struggled against serious illness to be here.
- Knock Museum south side of the complex is open daily 10:00-17:00.
- Golf: there are courses at Claremorris, Balla to the west, Swinford north and Ballyhaunis.
- Studio Theatre is in Claremorris town hall.
- Claremorris Leisure Centre has a pool and is open daily.
- Wall-to-wall religious stalls, shops and markets line the main route to the shrine.
- Centra is at Knock village crossroads.
- Claremorris to the south has a Tesco and Aldi.
- Aleppo Authentic Foods in Ballyhaunis is the only place in Mayo where you're likely to find Arabic ingredients; they're open daily and mail orders.
- Forde's in Knock has good filling trad food, daily 08:00-21:00.
- Cáfé le Chéile (south side of basilica), ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Reliable spot for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
- Claremorris has The Old Arch, daily 12:00-22:00, on the main street just south of the railway bridge. There's a slew of fast food places north along the street.
- Ballyhaunis has Dalgan Restaurant[dead link] on Main St, W-Su 09:00-21:00.
- Claremorris has Gilligan's Bar, Warde's, PJ Byrne's and Shamrock Bar all close to the railway station.
- Ballyhaunis has Nicholson's Corner Pub at the village crossroads.
- Swinford has Campbells on Main St, Boland's on Bridge St and White House south on Chapel St.
- Knock House Hotel, Drum, Knock F12 6Y5, ☏ . Clean comfy hotel by the basilica. B&B double €150.
- B&Bs in Knock include Drum Haven, Drumhouse, Golden Rose House and Cara.
- International Hostel next to the shrine has 4-bed dorms for groups, 12 minimum, but also has private double rooms.
- "Knock School Caravan Park" is still the name of a bus stop south side of the village, but it closed years ago. There's no campsite or caravan park in the vicinity.
- Claremorris has McWilliam Park Hotel, Dalton Inn and Western Hotel[dead link].
- Ballyhaunis has Mulberry Lodge B&B[dead link].
- Gateway Hotel, Main St, Swineford (10 km west of airport), ☏ . Reliable comfy hotel in Swinford. B&B double €120.
- Swineford also has Deer Park Manor B&B
As of Feb 2021, there's a mobile signal from Eir, and 4G with Three and Vodafone, along the strip between Charlestown, the airport, Knock village and Claremorris. 5G is getting close but has not yet reached this area.
- Tuam and Athenry to the south are in the lowland, pastoral part of County Galway, with many early religious remains.
- Cong southwest was the picturesque village location for filming The Quiet Man.
- Castlebar west is Mayo's main town; continue west to Westport for scenic Clew Bay and the pilgrimage mountain of Croagh Patrick.
- Ballymote and Sligo northwest have prehistoric sites and dramatic limestone scarps.