Let’s make Mayo the tourism capital of Ireland

There’s festival fever in Mayo this summer and what a county this is for staging innovative and crowd pleasing events season after season.

Last week saw thousands flock to Ballina for the week long Salmon Festival celebrations which once again didn’t fail to disappoint.

With a fun-filled programme of events, there was undoubtedly something to suit every age and taste over the course of the festival which culminated in the breath-taking fire works display over the Moy and Teddy Bear’s picnic.

Congrats to all involved and well done to all those who turned out once again in the North Mayo capital.

Tomorrow is the turn of Castlebar for the second annual Heart of Castlebar festival, a smaller event than Ballina’s offering but none the less a fantastic day out which is only in it’s infancy in comparison to Mayo’s longer established festivals.

Last year saw a group of local business people get together and in the space of just six short weeks organise a hugely successful shopping festival. It wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic promotions and offers from the heart of Castlebar businesses and again this year they have lent their support to this wonderful event.

A very welcome additional extra this year is the outdoor live music festival and carnival which takes place on Linenhall, Tucker and New Antrim Streets from 7pm and the heritage day which is being staged on Castle Street.

The success of this festival is down to the vision, dedication and foresight of volunteers who gave of their free time to put Castlebar on the festival map and bring extra footfall to the town. Sometimes this happened at personal expense to the volunteers and there have been obstacles to overcome, but despite everything Croí Chaisleán an Bharraigh will showcase what the county town has to offer this Saturday.

Next up is Westport, our beautiful, friendly Westport, who could give workshops to other towns on how to self promote. It’s like a mini Galway along the shores of Clew Bay with a diverse array of festivals all year long. Next weekend is the Saw Doctors and the Westport Music Festival on July 27 were thousands are expected to attend. Add to this Reek Sunday, and Westport is gearing up for a busy weekend.

This is only a snippet of what’s happening in the county’s three biggest towns. There is a lot more going on.

To market Mayo as a tourism destination what is really needed is some joined up thinking led by one dedicated organisation. Whether this be the county council or a dedicated group of volunteers representing the whole county, Mayo needs to put together an integrated programme of events, which compliment each other and not compete against each other, on an annual basis which is available to view by prospective visitors to the county.

A lot of small community organisations are staging events week in, week out. But one organisation needs to take up the mantle of promoting each and every festival like what Mayo Sports Partnership have done for sport in the county.

There is so much untapped potential, so much hidden history and hardly known little gems that we must start building tourism packages around every little attribute this county has to offer. Care must be taken that the integrity of our historical buildings, sites, and ruins are not tampered with, and with some careful consideration we should not only develop a real sense of the historical wealth available in Mayo, but we have a real opportunity to preserve and promote what makes Mayo unique.

Toni Bourke

Editor [email protected]


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