The province of Connaught lies in the West of Ireland with its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim Galway and Roscommon make up this geographically diverse region with the Atlantic Ocean to its westerly boundary and the midland s of Roscommon to the Hast, is the least populated with a population of just over 400,000. Historically, Connaught has retained its rich Gaelic heritage and today still has communities where the Irish language only is spoken amongst them. But English is the primary second language. These regions are collectively called the Gaeltacht. The remote and beautiful Aran Islands off the mainland of County Galway are also part of the Gaeltacht.
The primary business centre of Connaught, and the most densely populated area is the thriving city of Galway to the south of the province. Although Sligo City, Carrick on Shannon, and Boyle are all fine business and shopping centres in their own right. Connaught has some of the most scenic and unspoilt country side to be found in Ireland, including the spectacular mountainous landscape of Connemara, the lock gates and river banks of the Shannon Waterway, the famed Galway Bay and the historic glen s of County Leitrim.
Couple these with the beautiful Ashford Castle in Mayo near to Cong where the film The Quiet Man was filmed, and the natural serenity of Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon, and a tour of this region is a must for all. For those interested in a religious experience Mayo is famed for Knock Shrine where on the 21st August, 1879, at about 8 o’clock. Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist are reputed to have appeared. The apparition was seen by fifteen people whose ages ranged from six years to seventy-five and included men, women and children. The shrine has become so popular in modern times that the Ireland West International Airport was built especially in 1985 to cater for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors to Connaught.
The county also features die pilgrimage site known as Croagh Patrick, which overlooks Clew Bay in County Mayo. This is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland. The tradition of pilgrimage to this holy mountain stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption. Croagh Patrick is renowned today for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick is said to have fasted for forty days in 441 A D, and the custom of trekking up the mountain has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation.
Croagh Patrick is 5 miles from the picturesque town of Westport, and its conical shape soars majestically above the surrounding countryside with magnificent views of Clew Bay beneath. So, whether it’s water activities on the Atlantic coastline, cruising on the Shannon Waterway, religious pilgrimages, chilling out amongst an unspoilt landscape or driving along roads where motoring is still a pleasure, Connaught has it all.