County Mayo (Maigh Eo) receives less hype than County Galway. Mayo's appeal is its historical resilience, its hidden corners, and its raw, wild landscape of bog, mountain, and meadow. The Great Potato Famine hit Mayo the hardest and while it is still recovering in some ways, those exploring Ireland's wilder wonders will not be disappointed.
One of Mayo's treasures is the town of Cong (Conga), which sits cushioned between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib. Not far from the luxurious grounds of Ashford Castle the town is worth exploring for its clear tourist draw; the film The Quiet Man (1951), starring John Wayne, was filmed here. A backdrop of rivers, streams, and forests lends itself to further exploration.
Sitting off the Clew Bay and undeniably Mayo's most adorable town is Westport (Cathair na Mairt). The town's population hovers at around 6,000 inhabitants and walking to the Westport Quay Harbor makes a worthwhile jaunt.
Westport House and Gardens
The Westport House and Gardens (098 25 430,
James Wyatt laid out Westport, one of the first and only “planned” towns in Ireland. His design includes an octagonal mall and the main tree-lined thoroughfare along the River Carrowbeg. Famed architect Richard Castle worked on the impressive Westport House before Wyatt added his own touch.