Guide to Mayo for Families: Where to Eat, Stay, Play and Explore

Jill Holtz

September 1, 2022

mayo county guide for families

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Beautiful Mayo on the Wild Atlantic Way offers stunning scenery with islands, beaches, bays, greenways and more. Enjoy history, nature, culture, fabulous food, and a whole host of unique family-friendly activities and places to visit to keep you busy.

In our Guide to Mayo for Families, we’ve picked some of our favourite things to do with the family around Mayo, whether you’re planning a weekend break, looking to fill a rainy day, explore in the sunshine, or just try something new.

Our Guide to Mayo for Families

Family-Friendly Things to Do in Mayo

Westport House Mayo

Image courtesy of Christian McLeod

Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park has something for everyone and lots to keep you going all day! They have a range of activities for young and old, such as:

  • Enjoy fun rides such as the Cannonball Slide and the Pirates Swinging Ship
  • Take a Swan Pedalo boat out on the lake
  • Enjoy the playground and a soft indoor play area for the little ones
  • Take a ride on the Westport House Express, around the grounds and into Westport town
  • In Westport House, there are the Dungeons to see as well as a tour of Westport House to learn all about the history of famous Pirate Grace O’Malley.

Escape the bustle of urban life on The Great Western Greenway, a 42 km long traffic-free route following the old Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937. There are plenty of things to see along the Greenway with Achill, Newport, Mulranny & Westport being the four towns along the route. There are picnic benches along the way and informational signage. Stop off at Westport House, the Céide Fields, Croagh Patrick or one of the beautiful beaches along the way. You can hire bikes in any of the four towns along the Greenway or bring your own.

At Graune Pet Farm at Ballyhaunis, along with the usual farm animals you can find emu, deer, turtles and birds. They have two playgrounds with zip wires and other play equipment, as well as farm walks to experience, an on-site café and plenty of picnic benches to enjoy your own food.

Achill Island offers some of the most spectacular scenery and beaches in Mayo. There are 5 Blue Flag beaches in Achill: Dooega, Keel, Dugort, Golden Strand and then there’s Keem Bay, one of the most famous beaches in Mayo, if not the world. This beautiful horseshoe bay is overlooked by Croaghaun Mountain to the northeast and Moyteoge Head to the southwest. Be sure to stop by Achill Experience to meet the fishy friends at the Aquarium.

Take a ferry to Clare Island. Rent bikes or take an island bus tour to see the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley’s castle, explore the remains of promontory forts, megalithic tomb and ancient field systems and spot birds nesting on the dramatic cliffs.

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Free Things to Do in Mayo

Land of giants for family trails in Ireland

Go fairy hunting at Belleek Woods, an enchanted place that is home to a host of little folk! Go along for a stroll in one of Europe’s largest urban woodlands, and take the fairy trail to see if you can spot fairies and find the houses where they live.

A world of free family fun awaits you at National Museum of Ireland – Country Life with activity sheets, traditional games to play, a dress up station, discovery zone, outdoor play area and much more.

The Land of the Giants is packed full of giant objects for you to discover. It is situated on the outskirts of the town of Claremorris, about a 30 minute drive from Castlebar. The compacted paths are perfect for buggies, bikes, scooters and walking. Take the Clare Lake loop and spend a few hours uncovering giant objects, including keys, chairs, stationery, dinosaurs, wellingtons – and there is even a ninja!

Bring the kids to one of these great local libraries in County Mayo. Most have children’s sections where the kids can sit down and entertain themselves with the great selection of books, games and puzzles. There are also weekly story time sessions in the Ballina, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar and Westport branches.

Outdoor Activities in Mayo

Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo

Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo © Darren Moran

Ballycroy National Park is an amazing place to visit with the children and it’s free to visit as well. Follow the nature trail up to the viewing point and have fun looking for various flora and fauna along the way. The visitor centre is open March-October with lots of free events throughout the season.

Belleek Woods, near Ballina offers a nice opportunity for a family friendly walk along the banks of the river Moy. The tree-canopied walk has lots of natural forest pathways which are great for little adventures with the children. Keep a look out for some woodland animals such as squirrels, badgers, foxes and rabbits. There are also many historical features to be seen along the trail, including a hermitage and an ice house. There is a lovely picnic area where you can relax and watch the boats on the river. And don’t forget to hunt for the fairies on the fairy trail!

You don’t have to wait for the sun to come out to bring the children to one of the beautiful beaches in Mayo. There is lots of fun to be had in the water, sand and sand dunes. Some free activities with the children include racing in the sand, flying a kite, making sandcastles, collecting shells or looking for crabs in the rockpools.

The holy mountain of Croagh Patrick in Westport is an ancient site of pilgrimage with breathtaking views over Clew Bay, and one of the most famous walks in Mayo. This is a great family hike for older children and worth a trip even if you only get as far as the base with toddlers.

Located 1km north of the Galway/Mayo border, you’ll find Aasleagh Falls, a picturesque waterfall located on the River Erriff just before the river meets Killary Harbour. There is a pathway for the short walk to the waterfall. Salmon fishing is very popular at this location, so keep your eyes out for fishermen!

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Family-Friendly Museums & Galleries in Mayo

Free things to do in Mayo visit the NMI Country Life Museum

The National Museum of Ireland Museum of Country Life, located in Turlough Park, Castlebar, shows the traditional way of life that existed in Ireland since 1850. Hear unique stories and experience the rich heritage and fascinating cultural traditions of our rural ancestors! Family events run throughout the year and entry is free. They have lots of stuff going on over the summer months for all the family to enjoy.

You can have lunch at the museum cafe, and why not explore the grounds afterwards? There is an excellent children’s playground, woodland walks, an ancient Round Tower and a lake in the grounds of Turlough Park.

The Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina is a unique collection of historical Irish memorabilia which was collected by local business man Jackie Clarke throughout his life and donated to Mayo County Council in 2005. It is housed in the former provincial bank and is open for the public to go along and visit for free. They run events and workshops throughout the year too for both kids and adults to enjoy. And there’s a wonderful walled garden, where you can enjoy getting back to nature or have a picnic.

At the Michael Davitt Museum in Straide, you can discover the fascinating life of Michael Davitt, one of the co-founders of the Irish National Land League as you explore images, videos and text that examine his life and legacy. There is free parking and a picnic area.

The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year with a nice focus on children including commissioning an annual Visual Arts Exhibition designed specifically for children, participatory arts workshops in a variety of art forms throughout the year and theatre, music and dance performances which are designed specifically for young audiences.

Ballina Arts Centre plays host to  theatre, music, cinema, visual arts, dance and children’s arts, while Áras Inis Gluaire in Belmullet is Ireland’s only bilingual arts centre also showing monthly exhibitions and offering regular workshops and children’s activities.

Rainy Day Activities in Mayo

kids swimming

Enjoy some swimming and splashing time at Ballina Swimming Pool, Leisure Complex at Lough Lannagh (Castlebar), Claremorris Swimming Pool and Westport Leisure Centre.

For some bookshop time, Eason and The Castle Bookshop in Castlebar, Books At One in Louisburgh, and in Westport you can choose from Tertulia, The Bookshop and McLoughlin’s Bookshop.

At Achill Experience Aquarium, you will find 16 tanks, exhibiting a variety of fish that can be found in waters off Achill. They also have tropical fish from around the world. The open top tank allows you to get a better look at catsharks, crabs, thornback rays, starfish, sea urchins and various species of flat fish.

For indoor soft play:

  • The Pirates Den at Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park is their indoor soft play area with Tiny Town for imaginative play.
  • Wild West Playcentre in Westport is very safe, has lovely staff, a comfortable area for parents to sit and really nice tea/coffee
  • Pots of Fun indoor play centre in Claremorris has multi level play structure for 2-12 years, Tiny Tots area, Baby Ballpond and a Soft Ball Court.
  • Located in Breaffy Road Business Park in Castlebar, Funster Playcentre is a large indoor soft play venue with a huge climbing frame, tube slide and football area. They also have Tiny Tots and Toddlers areas.

Mayo Leisure Point in Castlebar is an indoor Entertainment complex offering 10 pin bowling, 7 screen cinema, Q-2000 laser game, Children’s Play area, Movie Bowl Diner, Arcade Games.

Situated in a 19th century building 2 kilometres from the centre of Westport, the Clew Bay Heritage Centre traces the history of Westport and the Clew Bay area from pre-Christian times to the present. You can see artefacts, documents and photographs which give an insight into local history, customs and traditions. They have a “hands on” experience, and visitors can actually touch the artefacts on display.

Catch a movie at The W Cinema in Westport, Mayo Movie World in Castlebar and IMC Cinema Ballina.

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Family-Friendly Hotels & Accommodation in Mayo

Hotel Westport, set on Westport Estate, offers standard and premium family rooms with access to 20m swimming pool and children’s splash pool. Enjoy the woodlands, trails and looped walks of the estate with discounted bike hire, discounts off Pirate Adventure Family Passes, family entertainment and activities, and kids will love the complimentary ice-cream cart on arrival at 4pm daily.

The Castlecourt Hotel in Westport has a pool, family rooms, friendly staff and an excellent breakfast. It’s right in the centre of town too, so not far to walk to the shops and to see the sights.

Westport Woods Hotel offers both family rooms and inter-connecting rooms. There’s a modern pool, and huge lobby area that has chairs and sofas for kids to clamber on, kids club, and is very near Westport House.

The Mulranny Park Hotel situated on the Western Greenway just a stone’s throw from a beautiful, family friendly sandy beach. Alongside the 4-star accommodation, they have a range of apartments, giving you the option of self-catering while still enjoying all the facilities of the hotel. These include a pool & leisure centre, dining and a kids club during school holidays.

The Mount Falcon Estate is situated on the banks of the River Moy and is set in 100 acres of parkland. While visiting you can take a fishing lesson, learn about hawks, falcons and owls, go clay pigeon shooting, have an archery lesson, cycle, run or walk the woodland trails, play 9 holes of golf, feed the ducks enjoy the kitchen garden and meet the head gardener and his busy bees! Or use the swimming pool, gym and spa facilities. Nestled within the grounds of the hotel are luxurious self catering family lodges, Woodland, Courtyard and River, all with options to sleep up to 6 people.

The McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris offer family rooms, swimming pool and is handy for day trips to Westport, Castlebar and the Museum of Country Life. In Claremorris you’ll find a playground and a walk around the lake.

Check out more of our favourite family-friendly hotels and accommodation in Ireland – from luxury breaks and hotels with kids clubs to self-catering choices and family camping and glamping.

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Mayo

There are many good restaurants in Mayo to choose from, here are some that have been recommended by Caroline, mum of 2:

  • The Museum Café at National Museum of Ireland – Country Life is open during Museum opening hours, and you will find child-friendly food at café with high-chairs available on request. The Café also welcomes mothers who wish to breast-feed their children.
  • In Westport – Servd, The Towers, The West, The Creel, Sol Rio and for sweet treats try Krem & Ginos.
  • In Castlebar – Bar One has the BEST pizzas, Cians, Caroline’s, The Bay Leaf at Horkans Garden Centre & Rua
  • Achill – The Beehive
  • Ballina – Crocketts on the Quay, The Wooden Spoon Cafe
  • Foxford – The Cafe at the Woollen Mills – great for a treat mid morning or afternoon with delicious cakes etc

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Things to Do in Mayo for Older Kids and Teens

Belmullet Tidal Pool

Belmullet Tidal Pool © Monika Regeciova

Take a splash in the sea at the Belmullet Tidal Pool, located on Shore Road just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre, in the waters of Blacksod Bay.

Head to the Skate Park in Westport – just off the Railway walk where you will find a skate park, basketball/Astroturf pitch and lots of outdoor exercise equipment as well.

For some escape room fun, try Inside Castlebar or Éalú Escape Rooms in Westport.

Mayo Adventure Experience offers stand up paddle boarding and kayaking while at Westport Adventure Park you can play Splatball and Paintball.

Ever played Footgolf? Yes it is as it is described, a game played on a golf course with a football. Footgolf Mayo in Westport offers 18 fun filled and challenging holes in a beautiful setting with breathtaking views of Croagh Patrick and the surrounding countryside.

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Deirbhile's Twist Mayo

Deirbhile’s Twist © Failte Ireland. Image Courtesy of Peter McCabe

Fallmore on the Mullet Peninsula has many associations with the Holy Deirbhile. For example, Deirbhile’s Church (a 12th century church), Deirbhile’s Bed (the saints’ final resting place), or Deirbhile’s Well (a holy well). In her honour, the stone circle Deirbhile’s Twist was built by artist and sculptor Michael Boffin in 1993.

Deirbhle’s Twist is a modern-day stone circle evoking ancient monuments, made from local granite stones in form of a twist erected with 22 stepping stones leading up to it. It is part of the North Mayo Sculpture Trail and you’ll find it slightly to the northwest of the peninsula tip, near Blacksod (An Fód Dubh).

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Published On: September 1st, 2022 / Categories: Ireland / Last Updated: September 7th, 2022 / Tags: , , , , /

About the Author: Jill Holtz

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls

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