Belderrig in Co. Mayo

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Belderrig is a beautiful sprawling coastal area, scenically located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean between Ballycastle and Belmullet in County Mayo.

Coming to Belderrig is travelling back 1000 million years and more. It is a present to the geologist, archaeologist and the botanist and offers magnificent scenery of sea and cliffscapes, and dramatic mountains.

The coastal area, in its simplicity, is regarded as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in north Mayo. Belderrig is a rural area located in a region rich in historical and archaeological heritage.

In immediate proximity to the village are the Belderrig Cliffs, which contain some of the most spectacular coastal geology in Ireland.

From here the visitor has fine views as far as Porturlin and Portacloy to the north west and the Stags of Broadhaven rise majestically in the distance. On a clear day one can see the Sligo coastline and the cliffs of Killybegs and Teelin (Donegal).

It is the largely undisturbed openess of the countryside and the closeness of the wild Atlantic that stands in contrast with small cosy cottages with their fireplaces. Knock on any door and you are welcome. Once in Belderrig you forget traffic, haste, stress, depression.

You will be affected by the full moon in Belderrig, equally by the spectacular stars seen during a moonless night, not disturbed by background lights of towns. Whether storms bring the Atlantic to boil or the flat waters at a quiet summer evening, nature's power can be felt in Belderrig.

Nearest towns

The Belderrig area is rich in historical and archaeological heritage and there is archaeological evidence that Stone-Age farmers lived in Belderrig. The first Stone-Age plough marks ever found in Ireland were uncovered beneath the bog there.

Turfcutting was, and still is, part of the yearly routine in Belderrig and each year locals harvest enough turf to last for the winter weather.

In the 1930s, whilst cutting turf, the local schoolmaster, Patrick Caulfield, continued to find large numbers of stones deep down in the bog.

The fact that they appeared in a regular formation intrigued him and the depth at which he found the stones suggested they must have been there for centuries.

Years later, his son, Professor Seamus Caulfield, an archaeologist, discovered evidence of cultivated fields, houses and tombs, at what is now known as Céide Fields. This unique landscape had lain hidden for many centuries.

”Belderg" - by Seamus Heaney

The essence of the Belderrig ('Belderg') landscape was captured by Seamus Heaney in a poem accompanying a thank-you letter shortly after a visit to Patrick Caulfield's house in 1974.

They just kept turning up

And were thought of as foreign'-

One-eyed and benign

They lie about his house,

Quernstones out of a bog.

To lift the lid of the peat

And find this pupil dreaming

Of neolithic wheat!

When he stripped off blanket bog The soft-piles centuries

Fell open like a glib:

There were the first plough-marks,

The stone age fields, the tomb

Corbelled, turfed and chambered,

Floored with dry turf-coomb.

A landscape fossilized,

Its stone wall patterings

Repeated before our eyes

In the stone walls of Mayo

Before I turn to go

He talked about persistance,

A congurence of lives,

How, stubbed and cleared of stones,

His home accrued growth rings

Of Iron, flint and bronze.

So I talked of Mossbawn,

A bogland name. 'But Moss?'

He crossed my old home's music

With older strains of Norse.

I'd told how its foundation

Was mutable as sound

And how I could derive

A forked root from that ground

And make bawn an English fort,

A planter's walled-in mound

From "Belderg" by Seamus Heaney 1975

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