The beautiful rugged countryside and tumbling waterfalls around Leenane are colourful examples of some of the finest scenery in the west of Ireland and far beyond. Nestled beneath the Maamtrasna and Maamturk mountains, Leenane is a village on the Mayo-Galway border, at the head of Killary harbour, Ireland's only fjord. The unspoilt wilderness of the area coupled with modern amenities and tourist attractions make Leenane one of the 'must see' and very desirable destinations for visitors to Connemara, and tourism is probably the biggest local employer.
Leenane is enriched by the many contrasts that its natural landscape offers, from the cool blue of the ocean to the deep green of the hills in summer, and from the deep purple heathers to the russet autumn mountains that surround this tranquil haven. It is this enrapturing natural beauty that has been attracting visitors to the region for more than 150 years. Visiting artists appreciate the great vistas of colour on mountain, land and sea; sports and fitness enthusiasts enjoy the challenging terrain that stretches over many miles of open countryside, while fishermen will spot the salmon leaping at the breath-taking Aasleagh Falls at the end of the Erriff Valley.
Wild Atlantic Way
The village is nestled on the Wild Atlantic Way and offers panoramic views of Killary Harbour over both of the sides: South towards Connemara and North towards Mayo. The harbour is one of the most breathtaking Signature Points on WAW and it is also one of the most beautiful places in the West of Ireland.
The village of Leenane evolved in the 1880s as the area recovered from the effects of successive famines. A weaving school was established by the Congested Districts Board and soon a weaving industry commenced operation from the hotel in the village. Around that time a girls lace-making school was also set up, and this was visited by Queen Alexandra on the royal visit of 1903, when King Edward VI toured the area. Most of the land around Leenane was owned by Trinity College since Cromwellian times and these lands fell into the hands of absentee landlords, thus resulting in the inhabitants living in unremitting poverty. Evidence of this can still be seen in the Lazy Beds (potato drills) high on the barren mountains around Leenane, bearing testimony to the great struggle of the tenants trying to produce food for their families. Eventually the Land Commission bought out the landlords in the early 20th century, allowing the tenant farmers to get back the land they had farmed for generations.
A number of the scenes in Jim Sheridan's 1990 movie 'The Field' - based on the play by John B Keane - were filmed on location in Leenane. These included the fight scene at Aasleigh Falls, the dance hall in Leenane, and some of the inside scenes were filmed in Gaynor's traditional pub in the village. The Bull McCabe's (played by Richard Harris) house was a stone cottage on the Clifden Road in Leenane.
The high hills around Leenane have fostered the hill sheep farming industry that has been synonymous with the area for generations. A great insight into the importance of the sheep and wool industry can be gained at the Sheep and Wool Museum in the village. Although this traditional industry still continues today, it has been replaced to a large extent economically by aquaculture and tourism.
Fishing is one of the many tourist attractions in the region and there are a number of significant salmon fisheries including the River Erriff, Delphi Fishery and Kylemore Fishery, as well as deep sea angling charter trips.
Walking, hiking, trekking or hill walking around Leenane ensures some of the most stunning mountain and coastal walks that one could possibly hope to experience. Leenane Mountain Walking Festival takes place annually in May with walks designed for all levels of fitness and ability.
Leenane is centrally located to a number of championship golf courses. These include Connemara Golf Links, Westport Golf Club, Oughterard Parklands Golf Course and Ballinrobe Golf Club.
Historic Kylemore Abbey, near Leenane, is a day out for all the family with its Gothic Church, Victorian Gardens, Craft Shop, Pottery Studio and Tea Rooms.
A host of outdoor activities can be enjoyed from your base in Leenane including adventure sports, scuba diving, kayaking, boat diving trips or a 90 minute luxury boat trip on Killary fjord.