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Erris Mayo Walks

A grandstand view of Downpatrick Head blowhole

The viewing area and walkway around the blowhole at Downpatrick near Ballycastle in Co Mayo is one of the most spectacular and exciting Signature Discovery Points on the Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail.

Visitors to the breathtaking headland at Downpatrick Head can now safely walk around the blowhole that was formed by landward expanding sea caves that pushed upwards into vertical shafts. During storms seawater is blasted from the top of the blowhole, making it an exciting spectacle.

The Downpatrick Head blowhole, known as Poll na Scantoine, is overlooked by viewing platforms on two levels  – and the raised walkway, or berm, around the rim of the blowhole, is symbolic of Ireland’s ancient ring forts.

A protective steel rod, flute fence, surrounds the blowhole viewing and commemorative areas allowing visitors to experience the natural wonder in a safe manner.

The Blowhole Commemorative Installation was designed and installed by pioneering Washington architect, Travis Price, and Catholic University of America architecture students, during the summer of 2014 as part of The Spirit of Place project.

Mr. Price has been involved in other installations on the North Mayo Sculpture trail, including ‘Acknowledgement’ on Claggan Island.

World War 11 stone aerial marker

The view from the platform, overlooking the blowhole at Downpatrick Head, surrounded by a protective steel rod, flute fence. Photo: Anthony Hickey
The view from the platform, overlooking the blowhole at Downpatrick Head, surrounded by a protective steel rod, flute fence. Photo: Anthony Hickey

At the entrance to Downpatrick Head, there is another blowhole that is covered with a reinforced wire mesh that allows the visitor to walk over the blowhole. Depending on the light, it can be difficult to see to the depths below, but, nonetheless, it is an eerie experience.

Located in a shelter at the blowhole viewing and commemorative area is a plaque to the memory of the people of Knockaun and Killeen who were drowned in the blowhole following the 1798 Rebellion.

 Dún Briste (The Broken Fort) at Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo.Photo: Anthony Hickey
Dún Briste (The Broken Fort) at Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo.Photo: Anthony Hickey

There is much more to see as you walk along the headland, including Dún Briste (The Broken Fort), the spectacular sea stack that foretells the fate of more sections of this cliff top as erosion inevitably takes its toll in the coming centuries.

The statue of St. Patrick and the remaining walls of the old church overlooking the blowhole evoke memories of past generations and their faith and courage in more difficult times.

Waves lash Downpatrick Head on Mayo's Wild Atlantic Way during a winter storm. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Waves lash Downpatrick Head on Mayo’s Wild Atlantic Way during a winter storm. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Downpatrick Head is also the location of one of the World War 11 stone aerial markers that were placed along the Irish coast to identify the land below as neutral Eire during World War 11.

The Eire 64 sign on the headland is similar to the Eire 62 marker at Erris Head. There are also plans to restore the old World War 11 watchtower at the site.

Visitors will be glad to hear that there is a good car park, and picnic tables, located at the entrance to Downpatrick Head, where you can enjoy the awe-inspiring views all along the North Mayo coastline as far west as the Stags of Broadhaven.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

2 replies on “A grandstand view of Downpatrick Head blowhole”

Downpatrick Head is a really spectacular and undervalued bit of Ireland. The cliffs are as impressive (and as tall) as the Cliffs of Moher without the throngs of tourists, and there are the other bits n pieces to see too.

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