After Westport I headed inland to the small town of Swinford, calling into Turlough Park, where the National Museum of Ireland houses its Folklife collection.
Nearby is Turlough Abbey supposedly dating from the mid 5th century. It is in a wonderful location on a hill with great views all around. There are some very interesting carvings in the walls. You certainly are aware that you in are in a very ancient place.
So on to Swinford,where our great-grandmother lived the final years of her life at the railway Station House. I was surprised that this lovely little town looked so run down with many closed and boarded up premises. I was reminded of the journalist, the late John Healy who wrote about the deprivation of rural areas in his book No One Shouted Stop (The Death of an Irish Town), published 1968. Not much has changed in the intervening decades. At the top of the street is a very poignant sculpture of a woman and child dedicated to the women who remained home while their men sought work abroad in the 1950s.
On the cut stone railway bridge there is a plaque commemorating the arrival and closure of the railway station and the thousands who travelled on it.
The Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Swinford – I wonder if our great-grandmother would have climbed these steps every Sunday
Just a short drive from Swinford is Pontoon. I had long wanted to visit this place as I had heard it was a place of great beauty. And so it is, a place where two lakes – Lough Conn and Lough Cullin meet, with great trout fly fishing. The two loughs meet under the bridge. The village was once a popular place for dances, and now sadly the hotel has closed down.
This is a beautiful unspoilt part of County Mayo, and well worth a slight detour to enjoy a different type of countryside, with lakes and rivers. County Mayo is sparsely populated which adds to its charm. I will return to the county to explore its great Wild Atlantic Way on my return journey ..and that will be a post not to be missed!