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Downpatrick Head – Dún Briste

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Downpatrick Head is a signature point on the “Wild Atlantic Way”. Located on the North Mayo coastline with stunning views of a Sea Stack and Cliffs.


Downpatrick Head is a place of spectacular scenic and geological importance. One of the noted locations on the West of Ireland’s world renowned “Wild Atlantic Way”. A tourist location not to be missed if you are in the area of north Mayo. The sea stack is one of the most photographed cliff areas in Ireland. A note of caution should be stated as the cliffs are extremely high with no barrier protection to preserve the natural views. View with extreme caution especially in windy conditions. Children should be held on to at all times. No dogs allowed. The site can be viewed during daylight hours

Dún Briste (Gaelic for Broken Fort) was once joined to the mainland.  The sea stack stands 45 metres (150 feet) tall.

Dun Briste and the surrounding cliffs were formed around 350 million years ago (during the ‘Lower Carboniferous Period’), when sea temperatures were much higher and the coastline at a greater distance away.  There are many legends describing how the Sea Stack was formed but it is widely accepted that an arch leading to the rock collapsed during very rough sea conditions in 1393. This is remarkably recent in geological terms.

Erosion between 1968 and 2015

1968              2015

Click on the image for a higher resolution. Incredibly, some loose rocks located at the top left of the 1968 photograph are still there 47 years later. The 1968 image is taken from the book ‘The Road to Downpatrick’ by Donal McCormick.

A large piece of rock at the top right of the image (approximately 4 meters square) has broken away.
Amazingly, this event was witnessed and the resulting splash photographed by Olivier Lerebourg which can be viewed here.

As the stack is safe from any land based predators, it is a safe haven for a vast array of bird species at nesting time. Occupied by Common and Greater Black Backed Gulls, Kittiwakes, Cormorants and Puffins.

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Downpatrick Head Canvas

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Last updated May 29, 2023


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