Residents of Mayo have long known that this little patch on the very western edge of Europe - with its rugged cliffs, tranquil lakes, beautifully barren boglands, and miles of pristine, sandy, beaches - is really something quite special.
And judging from the tourism awards that are starting to stack up, the rest of the country is cottoning on to the potential of Mayo too.
Fáilte Ireland announced this week that two towns in the county are among the top 15 tourism towns in the country.
Belmullet, which was already named this year as Ireland’s top outdoor adventure destination, and Westport, Ireland’s ‘Best Town to Live’ and a Foodie Town finalist, have both been listed on the roll call of Ireland’s top tourism gems.
The towns are now in the running to be named best overall tourism town with Belmullet competing in the small town category and Westport in the large town category.
The Tourism Towns Awards, now in their third year, recognise Irish towns and villages where the local community goes ‘that extra mile’ to enhance the visitor experience.
Other towns in the final include Kinsale and Cobh in Cork, Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim, Killarney, Kerry, and last year’s overall winner Kilkenny.
Over the next few weeks, a team of judges will carry out unannounced, undercover, inspections of the finalist towns, and the overall winners will be announced by Fáilte Ireland in November.
Paddy Mathews from Fáilte Ireland said the focus is very much on the visitor experience.
“These are towns that have already performed well in the Tidy Towns Competition in 2013, so we know that they are clean and well presented. Now we want to know how well they present themselves to their visitors,” he outlined.
“A great tourism town is one that provides visitors with an unforgettable experience. It is a town where the local businesses and the local community all contribute to shaping and delivering this experience. It also tells its story of its heritage and culture in an engaging way.”