Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Best of Way out West

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Best of Way out West

Article excerpt

YOU know you've gone as far west as you can in Ireland when the next parish is in Boston.

Many Mayo men and women have found themselves braving the Atlantic searching for a better life in Boston and beyond.

During the early 19th century the widespread famine caused by catastrophic failure of potato crops affected Mayo more than any other county and those who didn't die of starvation in the fields were either kept barely alive in workhouses or shipped to America.

Conditions were so bad, the vessels which sailed from Westport were known as coffin ships.

Today, County Mayo is rugged and defiant and marks those dark times with honour and pride at the National Museum of Ireland, near Castlebar, and by various roadside monuments.

Westport, while still ostensibly a fishing port, is now largely a town for tourists with many English people heading for this part of Ireland to sample the culture.

Modern restaurants sit side by side with traditional pubs, the most famous of which is the eponymous Matt Molloy's, owned by one of the Chieftains and home of top-class traditional music.

About 20km beyond Westport is the tiny, charming town of Louisburgh, famous for its neighbouring, unspoilt beaches and scenic drives. The town is barely more than a crossroads and a stay here makes you feel you have become part of the community.

Louisburgh lies in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Ireland's sacred mountain. St Patrick lived on the mountain for 40 days, fasting and doing penance. According to legend, this is where Patrick famously banished all snakes from Ireland.

Driving south out of Louisburgh, by the side of the Bunowen river, takes you towards Connemara via Doonlough and Leenane. The brooding mountains which frame Doonlough cast a dramatic shadow across the lake as if never allowing passers-by to forget the terrible suffering caused by the Famine.

Desperate people walked miles along this route to beg for food and it's not hard to imagine the horrors these haunting hills have witnessed. …

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