Ballinrobe

Ballinrobe can be found in the beautiful North West corner of Ireland, in the diverse county of Mayo, which has an abundance of attractions and would make for an exceptional family holiday or short-break for anyone.

Entrance to Ballinrobe racecourse

The course itself hosts a number of summer/autumn meetings, fixture details for 2021 can be found here: http://www.irishracing.com/Ballinrobe-Racecourse

This guide is unusual, in that although I visited the course, I did so during the closed Covid period in the summer of 2020, when I was so desperate to set foot on a racecourse! Therefore, it forms more of a tribute to the local area and county and hopefully will be helpful, for when the joy of actual race meeting attendance, is again a reality.

As pleasures are few and far between at the moment (!), it was slightly comical to discover that when Ballinrobe was relaunched in 2010, (with upgraded facilities) – the board of management had the gift of premonition, to bestow the name of the MASK PAVILION on one of the enclosures! However, the naming of, is more a nod to the local Lough Mask! Anyway -it brought a smile to my face on that Sunday in late September.

Getting there

Shannon airport is about 1.5 hours drive away, with Knock airport about 45 minutes drive. Dublin airport is about 2hrs. 45 mins. Conversely if you were arriving into Dublin port via car, it would be about 3 hours drive.

Accommodation

The town of Ballinrobe is less than 5 minutes drive (if you were wondering about taxis). There is a B&B opposite the course called the Woodview – call: +353 (0)87 419 2469 Ballinrobe itself is a small town, well-served with bars and lodging can probably be found in public house establishments, as well as a small hotel that may or may not be open.

However, if you are making a wider holiday of it, you can easily stay in Westport – 30 minutes drive, or Cong which is about 10 minutes drive.

Westport is a lively coastal town, ideally suited to visiting the wider attractions of Croagh Patrick, Louisburgh, Achill Island and more. I stayed in the Wyatt Hotel which is situated right in the centre of town. It is in front of Westport House and Gardens – which are well worth a stroll through. You can walk to the harbour, or just visit the historic house (€13.50 for adults) – the grounds are free, The Wyatt Hotel has two eating facilities and a popular bar. There are plenty of other options for accommodation – hostels to hotels. The town itself is immaculate, litter free and decked with flowers and foilage according to the season. The locals should be very proud of themselves.

Westport
View from Westport House

Cong is the town where the 1952 Hollywood film ‘The Quiet Man’ was made. It’s a picturesque small town, which benefits from a host of smaller hotels, as well as home to the 5* Ashford Castle, which has just been voted the top resort in UK and Ireland (as of September 2020). If you like fishing and walking, Cong could be a great choice for you to stay.

The bar where all the action was in ‘The Quiet Man’

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara depicted in a statue in Cong
Entrance to Ashford Castle, Cong

Racecourse

Hand sanitisers aplenty at the course, as well as the aforementioned Mask Pavilion (!), so we’re Covid secure!

Seriously – Ballinrobe has to be a contender for the best-kept racecourse in Ireland. There’s no evidence of tired, worn facilities and it’s very easy on the eye.

I look forward to going to an actual meeting in 2021, once we’re back up and running. I can’t comment first-hand on the atmosphere, but am reliably informed that the meetings are all well-attended by both locals and visitors alike.

In the meantime, if you’ve never visited Co. Mayo, I can highly recommend it. if you want more information on the course facilities, please visit: https://ballinroberacecourse.ie/

Other places worthy of visiting are Castlebar, the county town of Mayo. Castlebar is a traditional town and is also home to the Country Life Museum, which showcases social history in Ireland through the centuries. It’s a very impressive new-build, within fabulous parkland, with trails etc. There is a cafe that serves great coffee attached to the museum, with an external courtyard, for those that are hyper-sensitive in these Covid times. It’s situated 8km Northeast of Castlebar town and entrance is free. You could spend a good few hours here, as there is a lot to absorb.

Artefacts from the ‘good’ old days at Country Life Museum

If you’re into stained glass windows and are familiar with the work of the esteemed artist – Harry Clarke, then you could pay a quick visit to the Church in Newport, on your way around the coast to Mulranny or Achill Island. Well worth a break, to see further examples of his dazzling work.

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