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The National Museum of Ireland: Country Life

Opened in 2001, the grounds were originally owned by the Fitzgerald family until 1991 when the 15.7 hectares estate was purchased by Mayo County Council. The National Museum of Ireland- Country Life opened in 2001, and is the only National Museum of Ireland site located outside Dublin.

The National Museum of Ireland- Country Life features four floors of exhibitions exploring the rich heritage and cultural traditions of our rural ancestors, whose ingenious resourcefulness helped them live along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The museum is situated in Castlebar, a gateway to the Mayo section of the Wild Atlantic Way, and within striking distance of such key sites as Achill Island’s Keem Bay, Downpatrick Head, and the Wild Atlantic Way’s Bay Coast in the town of Westport.

The artefacts displayed in the Country Life museum are part of the National Museum of Ireland’s Folklife collections, and mainly relate to everyday life in rural Ireland from the end of the Great Famine in the 1840s, through to the aftermath of World War Two in the 1950s.

This Museum features exhibitions such as ‘The Times: Rural Ireland, 1850-1950’, exploring how rural people reacted and adapted to key Irish events such as the Land War, Home Rule, and the Famine. This site allows you to immerse yourself in the traditional use of natural materials, from Straw, Hay and Rushes, to peat bogs, the rural Irish community could make something from nothing when money was scarce, and utilised the land to hunt, grow and fish. Discover the practices associated with traditional Irish festivals such as Beltaine, marking the beginning of summer, the beginning of harvest at Lúnasa, and the end with Samhain.

While rural life is often romanticised and simplified, the National Museum of Ireland- Country Life displays the reality of rural life- the struggle and survival which was dependant on a deep knowledge of the landscape, a methodical understanding of the environment, and a skilful and ingenious people.