The Irish heritage village of Aghagower, once a powerful medieval monastery because of its' location on the pilgrimage route from Ballintubber to Croagh Patrick, today is a tiny quiet village on a lesser road and 8km from Westport, County Mayo.
The centre of the village of Aghagower is well worth an afternoon’s visit. Plan at least a half an hour to stop and explore.
The village features the remnants of an early medieval monastic site, similar to, but much smaller than Clonmacnoise, County Offaly.
Left of the settlement today is a round tower, church, and graveyard
featuring ancient grave stones all preserved on an island right in the
centre of the village.
There is also a round 'bath' which might have
been a place for pilgrims to wash their feet, and a (dried up) well with
a very small and weather beaten Sheela Na Gig.
Exploring the site gives an appreciation for early monastic life in
Ireland (can you see the pilgrims queuing up outside the curch and monks
in their robes scurrying about?)
You can get to Aughagower both from the N59 Clifden to
Westport road (look for a sign on your right coming from Clifden
direction), and from the R330 (that runs between Partry and Westport)
which is in fact the last piece of the Galway to Westport road. (Coming
up to Westport look out for a signpost for Aughagower on the left.)
This is an Irish heritage site in the middle of a village, open to the public all year round at no charge.
The monastery here at Aghagower is said to have been founded
by Saint Senach and continued to be active into the 13th century. The
monastery was a stop on a pilgrimage route, which in actual fact goes
back into ancient times when the same journey, from the Rathcroghan
complex to Croagh Patrick served as a processional route for kings.
Legend has it that the pilgrimage route was part of Saint Patrick's
journey in Ireland.
The accessible round tower today used by local children to play in was
built sometime between the late 10th and early 11th centuries. It is
16 m tall and leaning somewhat but was secured by reconstruction works
in the late 1960ies.
Oral local history has it that the towers’ stone
roof was destroyed during a thunderstorm only during the 19th century,
and the key stone is on display at the modern Catholic church in the
County Mayo was one of the counties that were most affected during the
great famine. Pre famine the parish of Aghagower had some 12,000
inhabitants. Compare that to 789 in the 1996 census!
For places to visit nearby check out the town of Westport which has plenty to offer in terms of cafes, pubs and lovely unique shops.
Check out Westport House for another heritage site worth taking in.
If you are taking the road from Westport to Louisburgh, Croagh Patrick will be on your left, and a range of beautiful beaches on your right.
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