Achill Island is Ireland's largest coastal island, and is reached by a bridge completed in 2008 from Polranny. Achill is about a forty-mile drive from Castlebar. The island features one of Grace O'Malley's Castles, the Achill Mission, Kildamhnait church and the mysterious Deserted Village. The cliffs of Croaghaun are the tallest sea cliffs in the British Isles, and the third tallest in Europe, which are most impressively viewed from the water. Slievemore mountain dominates the middle of the island and underlines the astonishing natural beauty of the surroundings, even with the extra development from the current population.
Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland:
The Shrine of Knock is found in the village of Knock, just over twenty miles east of Castlebar, and is famous for an apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the lamb representing Jesus Christ, Angels, and Saint John the Evangelist, in 1879 by fifteen people. An altar sculpture now depicts the scene as it was said to have appeared, and Knock Shrine has become a site of pilgrimage since and been blessed by the Vatican. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in 1979 to commemorate a hundred years since the vision. Mother Teresa of Calcutta also visited in 1993.
The awe-inspiring cliffs of Benwee Head can be found about fifty miles from Castlebar, near Kilgalligan, on the north coast of Co. Mayo and offer some of the most spectacular Atlantic coastal scenery in the world. The entire headland is filled with arches, stacks, rocky island outcrops, and sheer cliffs that plunge 900 feet straight down into the sea. There are also numerous walks along the coastline, including a looped route that features the Children of Lir Tir sculpture that reminds travellers of the legend of the children turned into swans and condemned to walk the countryside for nine hundred years.
In the Co. Mayo border village of Cong, about twenty-five miles south of Castlebar, is the historic site of Cong Abbey. Built on ground made holy in the early seventh century, the final incarnation was built in 1198 by Ireland's last High King, Rory O'Connor, and is widely regarded as having some of the finest examples of early Gothic architecture found in Ireland today. The remains include elaborate doorways, cloisters, and fine sculptures.
Croagh Patrick is a 2507 foot tall mountain twenty miles west of Castlebar and five miles from Westport, and is also an important pilgrimage site. Affectionately and locally known as the 'Reek', the last Sunday in July every year – called Reek Sunday – sees tens of thousands of pilgrims climb the peak as they have done for the last 1500 years. Before that, Croagh Patrick was the site of summer solstice worship from before 3000 BC, but it earned its place in Christian reverence since Saint Patrick spent forty days and forty nights fasting on the summit.