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The County Mayo town of Knock in the Republic of Ireland is one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage destinations, drawing over a million of the devout every year to the shrine marking a vision of the Virgin Mary, St John and St Joseph seen by 15 local people in 1879. Modern spiritual leaders such as Pope John Paul and Mother Theresa have visited, and Knock’s Ireland West International Airport some 20kms away was built to handle the influx of pilgrims. Knock is a small town with several hotels and the usual services, set in the heart of Ireland’s rural natural beauty.
Who to Book With
Knock Airport is the most convenient hub for car hire, with international companies such as Europcar, Hertz, Budget and Avis represented on the complex along with several local companies. It pays to search online for rate comparisons, and booking in advance with your chosen company can save time and money.
Best Time to Go
Knock’s only major attraction is its Marian Shrine, which can be visited all year round but is busiest at Easter, Whitsun and Christmas. Ireland’s weather is admittedly on the damp side but it’s rarely freezing cold and summers can be beautiful due to the rich green of the countryside.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents must be presented on collection of your car rental:
- A valid UK or EU photo driving license or International Driving Permit
- A secondary photo ID such as your passport
- The credit card used for your online booking
- If possible, a printed rental confirmation of booking
Even for inexperienced drivers, motoring in Ireland isn’t a challenge as roads are mostly well-kept and local drivers generally value self-preservation over excess speed. Rural roads tend towards the narrow and twisting, but there are passing spaces at regular intervals to allow drivers to cope with large farm vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. Seat belts are compulsory for all, and warning triangles should be carried. Mobile phone usage must involve a hands-free fitting, and drink-driving is never ignored by local police. Parking in Knock is comparatively easy except during religious holidays, and is cheap compared to UK costs. Petrol stations tend to close early, and some will not accept card payments.
Arrivals at Knock’s international airport have a choice of bus, airport shuttle, hired car or taxi transportation, as there is no direct rail connection between the complex and the town. Knock itself and its shrine are small enough to explore on foot, and self-drive is the best way to see the region’s rural beauty or take a day-trip to the coast.
There are no train connections from Knock, as the nearest train station with connections to major Irish cities is 22kms away at Ballyhaunis.
County Mayo’s bus services tend to be erratic and infrequent, with Bus Eireann’s website worth checking for services between Knock and nearby towns and villages.
Taxis at the airport are licensed by the local authority and can be pre-booked or found outside the arrivals exit, with the journey to Knock costing around €25. Journeys in general are priced at around €1.25 per kilometre, with fixed fares for longer sightseeing journeys. John Henry Cabs offers fixed price rates across the country as well as advance booking by phone or email.
The only convenient way to get around County Mayo’s rich vein of cultural and historic sites, museums, galleries and glorious countryside is by self-drive. There’s a great deal to attract visitors, from Stone Age monuments, Celtic crosses and wild natural beauty to the Croagh Patrick mountain where St Patrick fasted for 40 days in 441AD.
Ceide Fields - A drive to the wild boglands in the north of the county reveals Ceide Fields, a vast Stone Age monument containing incredibly ancient megalithic tombs, remnants of dwellings and the agricultural field systems of Ireland’s original Neolithic inhabitants. The settlement lies amongst amazing rock formations and rearing cliffs near the town of Ballycastle.
National Museum of Country Life - Located in Castlebar town, this is one of Ireland’s premier cultural institutions, set in Turlough Park just outside the town. Here you’ll find displays representing Ireland’s traditional agricultural lifestyle over the century and a half since 1850. The museum is a scenic drive of around 50kms from Knock.
Teach na Miasa - For a different kind of pilgrimage, head to Teach na Miasa overlooking Clew Bay near Westport, Ireland’s sacred mountain where St Patrick fasted for 40 days during his drive to bring Christianity to the island. The site has been a religious hub since the Stone Age, with pagan Harvest Home and other ceremonies believed to have taken place over 5,000 years ago. The 63km drive through unspoiled countryside to the coast is a treat.