Visitors' Guide of Louisburgh in Co. Mayo

Louisburgh is a small town tucked away between the mountains and the sea, situated at the mouth of the Bunowen River. The magnificent hinterland leads to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, Croagh Patrick dominates the landscape to the south . The magnificent scenery of this region in its unspoilt natural state is its greatest asset.

The many visitors to Louisburgh have a large variety of activities to enjoy from fishing to visiting the large number of archaeological sites in the area. Louisburgh is a twenty minute coastal drive from Westport. The area has a great deal to offer the visitor including blue flag beaches, fishing, golf, walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Beaches

The Louisburgh area boasts a number of beautiful beaches, three of which are Blue-Flagged: Bertra, Carramore and Old Head. To the west, beaches such as the Silver and White Strand are regarded as some of the best beaches in Europe.

Granuaile Visitors Centre

One of Mayo's most legendary people was the 16th century pirate queen Grace O'Malley (1530-1600), chieftain of the Ó Máille clan. Nicknamed 'Granuaile', her conquests at sea are legendary and are described in Elizabethan state papers. She battled against the English and ruled the Baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk around Clew Bay.

When in Louisburgh why not drop in to the Granuaile Visitor Centre and relive the fascinating story of the ruthless, domineering and famous Pirate Queen of Clew Bay through a multimedia tour. It is advisable to telephone the centre in advance to ensure it is open on the day you wish to visit. Tel: 098-25711/66341

Clare Island

This is one of the inhabited islands in Clew Bay and a ferry travels daily to the island all year around and several times a day during the summer months. In fine weather it offers some beautiful views: southwards towards Connemara, eastwards across Clew Bay and northwards towards Achill.

The current population is approx 150 but in pre-famine times the population was as high as 1700. Along with being a picturesque island, it is also the home of the great pirate queen Granuaile, where the ruins of her castle still stand. Local legend has it that she is buried on the island.

Inishturk Island

The only other inhabited island in Clew Bay is also worth a visit. Ferries leave from Roonagh Pier daily. It is a small and attractive island with hilly landscape, wonderful views and beautiful beaches.

National Famine Monument

This stark and striking monument in Murrisk is an appropriate commemoration of the millions who perished in the Great Famine over one hundered and fifty years ago. Crafted in bronze by John Behan, the dramatic sculpture depicts a "Coffin Ship" with skeleton bodies in the rigging. "Coffin Ship" was the termused to describe the ships which left our shores horrendously overcrowded with emigrants fleeing the famine. The dire and unhygenic conditions on board ensured that many did not reach their destination.

The National Famine Monument was unveiled in 1997 by President mary Robinson. Located directly opposite the carpark at the foot of Croagh Patrick, it commands panoramic views over the drumlin landscape of Clew Bay.

Famine Walk

During the Famine in Ireland more than 2.5 million people died of hunger and many more emigrated to America to escape starvation.

Like the rest of Mayo the Famine had a devastating effect on the Louisburgh area. Still etched in the landscape to the present day are the ridges and hollows of the potato beds and the ruins of many tiny stone dwellings which failed to house such impossibly large families at that time.

In 1841 the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi were forced from their homelands to journey many hundred miles cross country to Oklahoma. Many of them perished on what became known as the 'Trail of Tears'. A report in 'The Arkansas Intellegencer' of April 3rd 1847 stated that the Choctaw Indians, on learning of the Irish Famine, sent money to a famine relief fund in Ireland.

Every year a famine walk takes place, during the month of May, from Doolough to Louisburgh recalling the Irish Famine. This walk is often joined by one of the Indians from the Choctaw Nation. For further information tel: 01-4785100