Downpatrick Head & Ceide Fields, Co Mayo
Just a few miles north of Ballycastle village outside Ballina County Mayo, is the the windswept outcrop of Downpatrick Head. This is the perfect place to park up and stretch your legs with an invigorating coastal walk.
Looking out to sea on this magnificent headland as it juts out into the Wild Atlantic Ocean you will spot the small collection of islands called the Staggs of Broadhaven, but you’ll also see a lone sea-stack standing close to the edge of the cliffs. This sea-stack is called Dún Briste (broken fort). Local legend says that when a pagan chieftain refused to convert to Christianity, St Patrick struck the ground with his crozier, splitting a chunk of the headland off into the ocean, with the chieftain on top! The sea stack is beautiful to behold because you can see the layers upon layers of multi-coloured rock strata.
The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old. It is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance, which has changed our perception of our Stone Age ancestors. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles. They tell a story of the everyday lives of a farming people, their organized society, their highly developed spiritual beliefs, and their struggle against a changing environment beyond their control.
Céide Fields overlooks the mighty Atlantic Ocean which gently laps or vigorously pounds – depending on the weather! – against the cliffs below.
The landscape itself has been forged from the dramatic upheaval and movement of the earth's crust over millions of years.