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The Barony of Erris The barony of Erris (from the word Iar Ros meaning the western promontory) is located in North West Mayo, with Broadhaven Bay to the north and the wild Atlantic to the West. It is an area characterised by its spectacular scenery and unspoilt natural beauty. This consists of rugged cliffs along the north coast, beautiful and tranquil islands including the stags of Broadhaven, the Iniskeas, Duvillaun and Inisglora and miles of sandy beaches such as those of Portacloy, Rinroe, Doohoma, Elly and Mullaghroe. Further inland is a vast area of Blanket bog, the largest such habitat in Europe. The native Irish language can still be heard in the Gaeltacht areas of Erris, and Colaistí Samhraidh Gaeilge (Irish Summer Colleges) are hosted in Ceathrú Thaidhg, Eachléim and Cuan Oiligh every Summer. The area is steeped in culture and here you will find an easy-going traditional lifestyle intact. According to mythology the four Children of Lír (Clann Lír) are buried on the Island of Inisglora. These four children were turned into swans by their jealous stepmother and doomed to spend 900 years on the bleak waters of Ireland, before they finally reclaimed their human form and were buried there. Another tale is the Táin Bó Flitihis, a cattle raid which brought Queen Meave and her army from Rath Cruacháin in Roscommon on a journey through Erris. Erris is also a land of writers and poets. Riocaird Bairéad who is buried at Cross Graveyard penned the well known poem Eoghan Cóir, a satire on landlordism in Erris with particular reference to Binghams Baliff. Gweesalia/Geesala (Gaoth Saile) is said to be the setting for John Millington Synge’s famous play the Playboy of the Western World and for Padraic Mháire Bhán written by Seán O’Ruadháin of Doolough, which describes the Black and Tan period. Many archeological sites dot the landscape some of which you will see in the course of travelling through Erris. The Céide Fields at Behy on the North Coast is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. Farmers lived here in an organised fashion before the pyramids in Egypt were built. There are numerous promontory forts along the coast. Monasteries flourished on the Islands of Inisglora (St.Brendan), Duvillaun and the Iniskeas (St.Colmcille). The remains of beehive cells, early churches and decorated cross slabs are to be found here. Cross Abbey is associated with St. Brendan the Navigator – a sea voyager of the 6th century. At Faulmore is St. Deirbhile’s church with its Romanesque doorway, her grave and holy well. In the parish of Ballycroy is Fahy Castle, associated with the legendary Irish Sea Queen, Grace O’Malley (Granuaile). Another feature of the landscape is the Tír Sáile Sculpture Trail which extends from Ballina to Blacksod. This unique project was undertaken in 1993 to commemorate 5000 years of habitation in Co. Mayo. Geologists will find at Annagh Head, gneisses which are 2000 million years old- the oldest rocks recorded to date in Ireland. Of particular interest to the Birdwatcher is the Mullet Peninsula which is home to the endangered corncrake and the only Irish nesting place of rare Red Necked Phalarope. It was on the north coast of Mayo that the last Golden Eagle in Ireland was resident. By 1912 only to were known in the country, one in Erris and another in Donegal. The Mayo Eagle was last seen in 1931. Many travellers have journeyed into Erris, among them Maxwell, Otway, Praeger, Westropp and Knight. The following are observations made by them: “From north to east of Achill, lies the Barony of Erris, the wildest, loneliest stretch of country to be found in all of Ireland. The western shore is low and broken, and the heather there often gives place to poor pasture or tillage….The northern coast of Erris, on the other hand is grandly precipitous, with cliffs up to 800 feet high, set with jagged promontories, deep gullies and outlying stacks, the whole forming the finest piece of cliff scenery in the country” (R.L.Praeger, The Way That I Went, p.196) W.H. Maxwell in his `Wild Sports of the West’ states that “it is a district of unspoiled natural beauty and into this landscape poets, painters, sportsmen and antiquarians have come, in search of beauty, pleasure and knowledge”. Come and follow in their footsteps and discover for yourself what makes this a mysterious land alive with legend, heritage and adventure. A wide choice awaits- swim or laze on the blue flag beaches, tread on the largest living bogland in Europe, enjoy walks on sea cliffs or visit the many historic sites. The Golfer may enjoy an 18-hole world championship links over 6,690 yards of some of the lovliest terrain in Ireland and the fisherman the rich sea waters around Erris, where over 39 species of fish have been caught. Go n-eirí an bóthar leat agus tá siúl againn go mbainfidh tú taitneamh as do chuairt linn I gceantar álainn, draíochta Iorrais.
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