Yesterday, we set out on a back roads tour of North Mayo. We stopped first at the Ballycroy National Park Visitor’s Center. Ballycroy is the newest of Ireland’s six national parks; primarily it preserves one of the largest blanket bogs in Europe as well as provides a home for the endangered red grouse. For some reason, years of traveling to Ireland have not taught me to bring a windbreaker with me no matter what the weather seems like, so the chill kept us from exploring and photographing the bog. We’ll be back.
From Ballycroy, we drove to Downpatrick Head, stopping along the way to take advantage of photo ops. The distinguishing feature of Downpatrick Head is the sea stack, a.k.a. Dun Briste (broken fort). Apparently, St Patrick won a dubious battle there with a pagan god named Crom Dubh (Doov). After failing to hurl St P into everlasting fire, Crom – who simply wanted his followers to be able to worship nature as they had since time immemorial – retreated to his fortress at the end of Downpatrick Head. In response, Patrick cleaved the land with his crozier, separating the fort from the mainland and leaving poor old Crom (and this much I can believe) to be eaten alive by a plague of midges.
After leaving the head, we worked our way through a labyrinth of roads and boreens (lanes), eventually coming across the ruins of an old demesne. More on this later. Meanwhile: