Friday 29 June 2018

Downpatrick Head (Co. Mayo) on the Wild Atlantic Way - What a place!

Yes, it seems like Christmas was ages ago! We spent last Christmas in Co. Mayo - it was cold and windy and wet and... do you remember those feelings??

But I wanted to write about this amazing spot we visited then, that we hadn't heard about: Downpatrick Head, very close to Ballycastle, Co. Mayo.

Downpatrick Head is a spectacular outcrop just a few kilometres north of Ballycastle. It is incredibly beautiful, but the history of this area really makes the visitor want to know it all about every corner of it!!

To help us forget about how cold it was outside, and how bad the wind was, the first thing we saw when we got there was this: 

Lovely looking sky, lovely looking ocean... yes, the wind and the cold were bad, but the visit started to look really promising!!

Started walking up the hill, beside the rocks not to miss the views, which were fantastic, by the way:

It's a nice walk, a little bit upwards, but easy to make ;-).

In the distance we could see the famous blowhole:

Not sure if you've heard about this blowhole: it was created naturally by a subterranean sea tunnel. When you are there, looking down at the hole, you can only imagine what it must feel like to live the rage of the ocean channeled upwards through that hole to explode at the top!

Of course, I did not take this picture (the only one in the post that I did not take)... I found it in the fantastic site where you can find loads of information about the county as well as magnificent pictures like this one. So thanks to the people behind the site!

The inside of the blowhole looks like this:

First history lesson: some Irish and French soldiers died right here, inside the blowhole during the 1798 rebellion - they took refuge at the bottom of it and the tide came up before they could get out... sad story for these men!

We continued our walk until we got to St Patrick's statue

You are not going to believe this, but St Patrick WAS HERE!!! Yesssss, and he founded a church - and my kids are using its remains as a playground in the picture!

For this reason this specific spot was a popular pilgrim destination for years... and still pilgrims do gather here on the last Sunday of July (Garland Sunday), where a mass is celebrated to commemorate the occasion (the things we are learning today!!).

Still the views from here are glorious

Moving on... we are getting there, we can almost see the stack from here! But... there is something else first: that little building in the pictures is... a LOOKOUT POST FROM WORLD WAR II

Isn't it amazing???  according to different Irish history sites that we have read, at the beginning of World War II, the Irish government built a number of small buildings like this one along its coasts. They were used to protect Ireland's neutrality in the war and they were placed in strategic spots to lookout for any aggressive activity that could take place in Irish waters.

There were 83 small Lookout Posts (LOPs, that is how they were called) like this one along the coast and they were in use from 1939 to 1945. This is LOP number 64. 

And finally.... Dún Briste, (meaning the Broken Fort) the sea-stack close to the edge of the cliffs (approx 50 metres apart), so impressive! The sea-stack is 45 metres high - it looks much higher though!

There is of course a local legend around Dún Briste - we wouldn't be in Ireland if there wasn't! - it explains that there was a druid chieftain living here that wouldn't convert to Christianity. Such was his stubbornness that St Patrick - who was there founding the church, I assume - struck his crozier against the ground with such strength that, with this strike, the stack was separated from mainland with the chieftain on top. He was left to die there...

We, of course, believe this legend, but there is another "more historical" version of what happened: there was a huge overnight storm hitting this area back in 1393. It was so brutal that the ocean broke a piece of the mainland and Dún Briste was created.

After taking a few pictures and admiring the stack and its different coloured layers, we decided to go back to the car. The light was fading, but still the landscape looked magnificent

We absolutely loved Downpatrick head, it is a MUST-SEE, MUST-DISCOVER spot along the Wild Atlantic Way, that we fully recommend if you happen to be in the area this summer.

I am sure you'll enjoy it like we did!

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