County Mayo in the West of Ireland
Fri 29 April - Mon 2 May 2016
29 Aibreán - 2 Bealtaine 2016


Kilgeever parish in which Louisburgh is situated is in the South West of County Mayo. It is bounded by Croagh Patrick to the east, the Sheaffrey and Mweelrea Mountains to the south, the Atlantic to the west and Clew Bay to the north. All of this landscape is designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Mayo County Development Plan, and calls have been made for its designation as a 'Special Amenity Area'.

Croagh Patrick, Irelands holy mountain and known locally as "The Reek", dominates the eastern landscape and attracts up to 100,000 climbers annually. Many are pilgrims who make the climb on Garland Sunday and Garland Friday (the last Sunday and Friday of July).

Croagh Patrick

The Reek, a challenging climb that should be undertaken with care, gives a breathtaking panoramic view of much of Mayo and towers above Clew Bay, with its 365 islets. The area is rich in archaeological monuments and areas of scientific interest.

Clew Bay from top of Croagh Patrick

Off the coast are the inhabited islands of Clare and Innishturk and the uninhabited Cahir Island with its monastic ruins.

Clare Island from near Old Head

Scenic drives abound and the drive south to Connemara via Doolough and Leenane is particularly breathtaking. The area, which has miles of some of the finest beaches in Ireland, is renowned for its friendliness.

The Earl of Altamont received a Patent to hold fairs and markets in Louisburgh in 1795. It is believed this gave the impetus for the building of the town. In 1796 it, and the surrounding areas, housed many refugees from Northern Ireland who were escaping from sectarian conflict.

The area suffered more than most during the great famine of 1846 to 1849. The 1841 census recorded a population of 12,573 while ten years later the population was down to 6,892. The tragic events of that period are now commemorated in an annual walk to Doulough, ten miles south of Louisburgh.


From the time of the Famine up to relatively recent times, emigration, mainly to America and England, was a necessity for the majority of the youth of the area. Boston, Chicago, London and Coventry were talked of with the same familiarity as Galway or Dublin in most homes. Those who stayed behind often depended on the generosity of the emigrants for many of their comforts at home. Thankfully Louisburgh is now a very different place. Housing and general living conditions are now of a high standard and the area has a vibrant if, in line with other rural areas, falling population.

The American writer Harold Speakman who travelled all around Ireland researching his travel book "Here's Ireland" (published in 1926) wrote:

"From Leenane on Killery Bay, ten miles onward toward Louisburg (sic), ran a stretch of road which was the fairest I had seen in Ireland. After the village and fjord which was Norway, and the mountain torrent and forest grove that was Switzerland, came a canyon which was Montana, and beyond it, a lake like a miniature Sea of Galilee"

You can find out more information about Louisburgh on the Louisburgh website.



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Michael O'Grady
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